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Save the Planet: Focus on Methane

In 2021, a landmark report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded the alarm that additional warming is inevitable. Countries must make “strong, rapid, and sustained” reductions in carbon dioxide—the most abundant and damaging greenhouse gas. For the first time, the report also documented that reducing methane is the best and fastest strategy for slowing global warming. This means that incentivizing further reductions in methane is critically important to staving off catastrophic impacts.

What the experts are saying:

“Quickly reducing methane could counteract global warming, while also improving air quality.”

– Maisa Rojas Corradi, IPCC Report Co-author, University of Chile

“Cutting methane is the single biggest and fastest strategy for slowing down warming.”

– Durwood Zaulke, President, Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Washington, D.C.

“The report draws attention to the immediate benefits of significant reductions in methane, both from an atmospheric concentration point of view and, but also from the co-benefits to human health from improved air quality.”

– Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

IPCC Press Release

IPCC Report Policy Summary

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Consider the following:


  • At a cost of just nine dollars ($9) per ton of CO2e reduced, the DDRDP is California’s most cost effective investment in the fight against climate change.


  • The state's family dairy farms are on course to meet the states 40% manure methane reduction goal by 2030, already implementing more than 50% of the reductions needed.


  • Both the DDRDP and the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) are oversubscribed, documenting the need for additional funds.

  • California cannot and will not achieve its methane and overall GHG reductions without additional investments in dairy digesters. 

As evidenced by the passage of Senate Bill 1383 (Lara) in 2016, California has long understood the importance of slowing the release of methane (CH4) and other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) to address global climate change. A recent global methane assessment conducted by the United Nations environmental program (UNep) emphasizes the need to further abate methane as a short-term hedge against the more damaging and long-term impacts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary GHG causing global warming.


Methane’s enormous potential as a mitigation opportunity is its short-lived nature, lasting just a decade or so in the atmosphere before breaking down. That means stabilizing existing methane emissions quickly—and further reducing methane concentrations in the atmosphere—will most effectively help the world meet its 2050 targets for fighting global warming.


By contrast, carbon dioxide—the most abundant GHG emission—lasts for hundreds of years. So, while it remains critical to continue reducing CO2, seeking reductions in methane is far more important in the short term.


As a result, funding short term methane emissions reductions should be priority number one for California. However, investments in methane reduction have decreased significantly in recent years, as funding for dairy methane reduction programs and other SLCPs have been cut, in favor of pet political projects that provide few if any actual reductions.

Three recent reports from the Newsom Administration document the significant environmental, climate, social, and economic benefits of dairy digesters and dairy methane reduction efforts. These benefits include significant direct and indirect benefits to local disadvantaged communities and priority populations.

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California Climate Investments - 2022 Annual Report

  • Documents that the dairy digester program is responsible for achieving 28% of all GHG reductions from all programs invested in by the state with just 1.5% of total funds implemented.

  • Identifies the dairy digester program as the state's most cost effective, at just $9 per ton of reduction.

  • Reports that 67% of funds expended on dairy digesters are benefiting priority populations. 


California Department of Food and Agriculture -  Report of Funded (DDRDP) Projects

  • Estimates the cumulative reduction from the dairy digester program as 21.12 million metric tons (MMTCO2e) over 10 years or 2.11 MMTCO2e annually.  

  • Documents the environmental protection of water and air quality. 

  • Identifies significant air, water quality, and nuisance (odor) benefits provided to local communities. 


California Air Resources Board -  Analysis of Progress toward Achieving the 2030 Dairy and Livestock Sector Methane Emissions Target

  • Documents the progress toward the targeted livestock sector methane reductions. 

  • Identifies the need for additional incentives and grant funding. 

  • Estimates the societal benefits of reducing methane emissions at up to $1,878 per metric ton.

  • Documents the 40% target reduction in dairy and livestock methane cannot be achieved without significant additional digester development.


The recent United Nations environmental program (UNep) assessment also underscores the importance of methane reduction in the dairy and livestock sector to overall achievement of the global Paris Climate Agreement to limit additional warming to 1.5 degrees C by 2050. 

  • The Global Methane Assessment recognizes the value of reducing methane in the short-term, including important social, health, environmental, and economic benefits. ​

  • The Global Methane Assessment specifically identifies livestock methane as well as the use of biogas digesters as critical targeted measures to achieve reductions in the short term. 

Planet-Smart Dairy

Planet-Smart Dairy

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California Dairy's
Climate Neutral Future

California's family dairy farmers are world leaders in developing climate-smart practices. They are making great strides to reduce reliance on fossils fuels and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. 


Methane, Cows, and Climate Change:

California Dairy's Path to Climate Neutrality

UC Davis white paper looks at evolving climate science and its implications for the California dairy sector.


Dairy Farm Families Are...


Helping Cool the Planet

California dairy farms have
reduced GHG emissions
by more than 45%
over the past 50 years. 


World Leaders

By implementing digesters and
 alternative manure management
projects, California dairy farms are further reducing GHG emissions.


Soaking Up the Sun

More than 150 California dairy farms are creating clean, solar energy. Dairies are also reducing reliance on fossil fuels through energy efficiency and electrifying farm equipment.

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Dairy Cares is a statewide coalition with a mission to ensure the long-term sustainability of California’s dairy farm families.

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