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Research Questions

  1. What is the extent of U.S. government and, specifically, U.S. Department of State (DoS) support for the Global Methane Initiative (GMI)?
  2. What is the nature of DoS support for GMI? What unique contributions does the department bring to the partnership's operations?
  3. What role have GMI activities played on the ground, according to the available data and the perspectives of project participants?
  4. What quantitative data are available on GMI activities? Are there data gaps that should be addressed to better inform future evaluations?
  5. Have GMI activities had a gender dimension? That is, have the initiative's activities increased women's access to important technologies or provided women with an improved capacity to address climate change?

Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas that is released during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil; the raising of livestock and other agricultural practices; and the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills and some wastewater treatment systems. Although it is short-lived, methane has more than 20 times the atmospheric warming effect of carbon dioxide. However, it is a primary component of natural gas, so efforts to reduce methane emissions can take advantage of technologies that capture and reuse the gas as a fuel, potentially bringing about cost-effective reductions in emissions. The Global Methane Initiative (GMI) is a voluntary international partnership that promotes methane recovery and reuse activities in developing and transition economies. Program partners and funders include national governments, private-sector firms, development banks, and nongovernmental organizations. As a founding member of the partnership, the U.S. government contributes funding and other types of support to GMI primarily through the U.S. Department of State (specifically, its Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and its Office of Global Change) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To help gauge the effects and value added of its support for the program, the Department of State requested an evaluation of GMI's activities and outcomes relative to its contributions in fiscal years 2006–2010. The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach that combined quantitative and qualitative information to document program resources and activities and to illustrate program outcomes, including information from in-country site visits. The report also presents some recommendations for how data collection could be improved to answer more sophisticated questions in the future about the effectiveness of GMI and the value added by the department's contributions.

Key Findings

U.S. Department of State Support for the Global Methane Initiative Has Been Substantial.

  • As a founding member, the U.S. government plays a major role in the Global Methane Initiative's (GMI's) governance, strategy, and programming. The primary U.S. government agencies that contribute to GMI are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of State (DoS).
  • Between fiscal years 2006 and 2010, total U.S. government funding for GMI was approximately $54 million, with most coming from DoS (52 percent) and a large share from EPA (37 percent).
  • DoS has also provided nonfinancial programmatic contributions, particularly initial support to create and launch GMI and foreign policy expertise and guidance to run and expand the program.

A Mixed-Methods Approach to Evaluating DoS Support for GMI Proved Necessary to Obtain a Complete Picture of Effects.

  • Information from a database of GMI activities, maintained by EPA, provided insights about the number of GMI-related activities initiated (2,000), the number of people trained in methane reduction (6,900), and the amount of methane emissions reduced (203 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). However, there were some gaps in the database that the evaluation had to address via site visits, interviews, and feedback solicited from nongovernmental organizations.
  • The site visits focused on a small sample of GMI partner countries (India, Mexico, and the Philippines) and revealed that U.S. government-supported GMI activities have been effective. Stakeholders from both the private and public sectors stated that they benefited from capacity-building activities, such as study tours, conferences, and workshops, which gave them opportunities to learn about new technologies and network with leading international participants in their fields.
  • In addition to its monetary contributions, DoS also provided programmatic and strategic guidance by drafting multilateral agreements, especially when crafting the chartering documents, and engaged its core competence in diplomacy and building consent to create the partnership and in providing leadership as a member of the GMI Steering Committee.


  • Interviewees cited the U.S. government's local presence with regard to its Global Methane Initiative (GMI) activities as a valuable component of the success of methane reduction and reuse activities in their countries and industries (for example, when there was a local GMI representative to coordinate activities and engage government officials). GMI and the U.S. Department of State (DoS) would benefit from further use of this approach.
  • Local stakeholders were sometimes aware of problems in implementing projects but were not sure how to convey these observations to the U.S. government, particularly EPA. DoS would receive valuable on-the-ground information about its activities by soliciting this feedback.
  • Although the GMI database is a useful tool for collecting and relaying quantitative information about activities, it would benefit from more consistency and completeness. A simple solution would be to create better documentation for users, a process that EPA has begun implementing. Improved approaches to entering funding information would help future evaluations determine levels of U.S. government support with more accuracy.
  • Providing more detail about how methane emissions and reductions are tracked in the database would make it easier to attribute these outcomes to specific activities.
  • Future evaluations of the gender impacts of U.S. government-supported GMI activities would benefit from more specificity in terms of which metrics are of most interest to DoS and which are most applicable to GMI's goals and activities. The current evaluation was able to provide only a starting point for such an examination.
  • EPA and DoS would benefit from greater transparency into how leveraged funding is calculated and what it includes, providing a more accurate picture of the reach of U.S. government support.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and was conducted in the Environment, Energy, and Economic Development Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment, a division of the RAND Corporation.

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