How Asia’s Rice Producers Can Help Limit Global Warming

The United States and European Union want countries from around the world to join them in slashing methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The recent EU-U.S. pledge recognizes that rapid reductions in methane emissions are critical to limiting global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages. Unlike carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for centuries, methane has a half-life of a decade. Therefore, achieving deep reductions now in emissions from methane, which has a Global Warming Potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide, can help rapidly stabilize global temperature within the time horizon set out in the Paris Agreement.

Given that flooded rice paddy fields account for 12 percent of global anthropogenic methane emissions, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the total warming effect of all greenhouse gases, it is critical that rice production forms a key component of the new EU-U.S. pledge. Mitigation of methane in rice production would not only help the EU-U.S. plan meet its reduction targets, but also support adaptation and a just rural transition for some of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers. However, among the world’s top 10 rice methane emitters, only Indonesia has so far indicated it will join the new EU-U.S. initiative.

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Oliver Frith, Reiner Wassmann, and Bjoern Ole Sander