UN Methane Observatory paves way for steep emissions reductions

A new report launched today at a major gathering of the oil and gas industry finds that many companies are increasing their efforts to tackle methane, one of the biggest and most solvable contributors to the climate crisis, but more needs to be done.

An Eye on Methane: International Methane Emissions Observatory 2022, launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) in Abu Dhabi, reports that over 80 oil and gas companies across the world have committed to measuring and reducing their methane emissions. Of these, 60 members are on the Gold Standard pathway to reach the highest level of disclosure.

“As UNEP’s recent Emissions Gap Report showed, the world is far off track to keep climate change to 1.5°C,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Cutting methane emissions is the fastest way to tackle climate change in the short-term, as it remains in the atmosphere for far fewer years than carbon dioxide. Companies are making progress, but they must move faster and harder. We need more companies to act, and they must be bolder.

“Looking at the bigger picture, the best way for the oil and gas industry to end methane emissions, and all emissions, is to rethink entirely their roles as energy companies. If the industry is serious about a net-zero future – as it must be to provide a shot at health, wealth, and prosperity for all – this must be the long-term goal.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to at least a quarter of today’s climate warming. Global methane emissions must be reduced by 40-45 per cent by 2030 to achieve cost-effective pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

An Eye on Methane highlights the critical role of the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), a UNEP initiative that drives action on slashing methane emissions. IMEO is creating the world’s first global public database of empirically verified methane emissions, starting with the fossil fuel sector, at a level of granularity and accuracy never achieved before.

The lack of reliable emissions data has made it hard for governments to carry out targeted action at the scale and speed needed to achieve the objectives of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP). This global effort, launched in November last year by the US and the European Commission, brings together over 120 countries to reduce global methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.  As a core implementing partner of the GMP, IMEO will provide data to enable companies and governments across the globe to target strategic mitigation action.

“To reduce methane emissions, we need to know more. Who is emitting, where, and how much. The lack of verified emissions data has made it hard for governments to carry out targeted action at the scale and speed needed to achieve our climate goals, or even to raise political awareness of the problem. What you do not measure, does not get addressed,” Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy          

UNEP ‘s flagship oil and gas reporting and mitigation programme, the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0), provides a framework for emission reporting in a sector that is one of the largest manmade sources of methane emissions. It also has the greatest potential for cost-effective reduction. The effort initiated by the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition has evolved into a unique platform for collective action amongst its member companies.   

Yet, further progress is needed to reliably quantify the oil and gas industry’s emissions. There is still a discrepancy between the estimates of global industry emissions and the proportional share reported by OGMP 2.0 member companies.

To pave the way for further reduction of methane emissions, IMEO’s focus has expanded to cover other major categories of emitters, collectively responsible for 75 per cent of methane emissions in 2017. They include livestock (responsible for 33 per cent of methane emissions), oil and gas, waste and landfills (over 20 per cent), coal mining (12 per cent,) and rice cultivation (nearly 10 per cent).