Offsetting methane emissions - An alternative to emission equivalence metrics

A. R. Lauder, I. G. Enting, J. O. Carter, N. Clisby, A. L. Cowie, B. K. Henry, M. R. Raupach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely recognised that defining trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions using 'emission equivalence' based on global warming potentials (GWPs) referenced to carbon dioxide produces anomalous results when applied to methane. The short atmospheric lifetime of methane, compared to the timescales of CO2 uptake, leads to the greenhouse warming depending strongly on the temporal pattern of emission substitution.We argue that a more appropriate way to consider the relationship between the warming effects of methane and carbon dioxide is to define a 'mixed metric' that compares ongoing methane emissions (or reductions) to one-off emissions (or reductions) of carbon dioxide. Quantifying this approach, we propose that a one-off sequestration of 1t of carbon would offset an ongoing methane emission in the range 0.90-1.05kg CH4 per year. We present an example of how our approach would apply to rangeland cattle production, and consider the broader context of mitigation of climate change, noting the reverse trade-off would raise significant challenges in managing the risk of non-compliance.Our analysis is consistent with other approaches to addressing the criticisms of GWP-based emission equivalence, but provides a simpler and more robust approach while still achieving close equivalence of climate mitigation outcomes ranging over decadal to multi-century timescales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-429
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Agricultural emissions
  • CO-equivalence
  • Methane
  • Offsets
  • Rangeland grazing


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