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Environment China is a weekly bilingual podcast from the Beijing Energy Network. The show features conversations with advocates, entrepreneurs, and experts working in the environmental field in China.  We are looking to learn how they do their work, what new strategies and solutions they have found, and why now is the right time for real and positive changes in China’s environmental field.

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Dec 23, 2020

Methane is responsible for an astonishing one-quarter of today's global warming, and that makes it an urgent issue, right alongside CO2. But most analysts focus mainly on CO2 and the energy mix, not other greenhouse gases, and those who do look at methane mainly focus on the U.S. or other major gas producing countries. So today, we’re going to talk about a couple of recent EDF reports and scientific articles about methane related policies in China.

Our guest today is Zhang Jianyu. Dr Zhang is Chief Representative of the China Office of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and he is also Vice President and member of the Executive Team at EDF. He helped found the China program of EDF and helped it become the first international NGO registered with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in 2017. Dr Zhang has contributed to the establishment of China’s Carbon Trading System, and has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, as well as columns, and book chapters.

Methane, like CO2, is a greenhouse gas. Pure methane has the chemical formula CH4. Most comes from oil and gas wells or from coal mines. It’s more efficient and less CO2 intensive than coal or oil, but direct methane emissions have a far larger global warming effect per molecule than CO2, with a global warming effect over 80 times higher per molecule (when measured over a 20-year period). About 25% of today's global warming is caused by methane emissions.

The IEA estimates that the world’s oil and gas industry can feasibly cut methane emissions by 75%, and of that, 2/3 would be at no cost.

China has committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and to peak carbon emissions before 2030. Currently (as of this recording on Dec. 18, 2020), it is unclear if that includes all greenhouse gases or just CO2.

For further reading:

Ramon Alvarez et al., “Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain,” Science, July 2018:

Scot  M. Miller at al., “China’s coal mine methane regulations have not curbed growing emissions,” Nature Communications, February 2019, at

“Measuring Methane,” EDF, 2020:

“Methane: A Global Challenge, A Global Opportunity,” EDF, 2020:

“China Signals Methane is a New Climate Focus for Curtailing Energy Emissions,” EDF, June 2019,

“Challenge, opportunity as China begins to tackle fossil fuel methane emissions,” EDF, March 2019, at