Data for Methane Action
Since entering the 2020’s, atmospheric concentrations of methane are increasing at a pace unseen since atmospheric measurements began in the 1980s. At the global level, anthropogenic and natural sources of methane emissions are fairly well known, significant uncertainties continue to exist at the regional and country scales as well as the specific drivers of recently observed emissions growth. While technically feasible mitigation options are readily available across sectors, and their implementation cannot wait for perfect data, improving our understanding of these sources and drivers, including through measurement-based data, is essential for further expanding targeted mitigation efforts.
Over the past ten years significant progress has been made in characterizing the magnitude and location of methane emissions from different sources. Rapid growth in global satellite monitoring and heightened global attention are creating an unprecedented level of methane transparency. This data is critical for closing the emissions gap by better focusing mitigation efforts and tracking progress over time.
Global Methane Pledge (GMP) supporters are working to provide actionable measurement-based data to support countries efforts on methane abatement
- Methane studies supported by IMEO are filling existing knowledge gaps about the location and magnitude of methane emissions
To date, UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) has supported 34 global methane studies that have yielded 20 published peer-reviewed papers. Launched and initially funded by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) in 2016, these studies aim to fill existing knowledge gaps about the location and magnitude of methane emissions. The studies focus on geographic regions and sources with limited or no available empirical emissions data and provide the understanding necessary to guide mitigation action. In 2023, IMEO’s Scientific Oversight Committee approved eight new studies with 10 peer-reviewed papers expected to publish by the end of the year. Going forward, IMEO scientific work will extend to other sectors, including waste, livestock and rice, characterize key emission sources such as flaring, and make evaluation of methane monitoring technology more uniform. In 2024, a controlled release programme will also be conducted in France. Key findings from IMEO’s 2023 scientific studies include:
- IMEO collaborated with over 20 international research groups to assess emissions from the Sept 2022 Nord Stream pipeline leak. Findings indicate the event could be the largest documented short-term release of methane to the atmosphere to date.
- In Romania, the ROMEO project (Romanian Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas)– the largest methane measurement campaign to date in Europe funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme – informed four peer-reviewed papers, including one new paper this year that found sites in southern Romania emit 2.5 times more methane than previously reported.
- To address knowledge gaps in methane emissions from coal for the steel supply chain, IMEO initiated two ongoing field studies in Poland and Australia in 2022 with satellite and aerial components.
- To improve the understanding of methane from key segments of the oil and gas supply chain, IMEO supported research to collect empirical data on LNG liquefaction and regassification facilities across different regions of the world.
IMEO scientific work will expand to also focus on improving the characterization of key emission sources (in particular flaring efficiency) and advancing and homogenizing robust testing and validation of methane monitoring technologies. Furthermore, in 2024, a controlled release programme will be conducted in France. Measurements will also extend to the other methane emitting sectors, including waste, livestock and rice.
- IMEO will maintain a new Methane Supply Index to characterize the methane footprint of various oil and gas supply chains
As gas consumers demand lower emission products, there is a clear need for a system to quantify methane emissions from various oil and gas supply chains and empower buyers to discriminate purchasing and governments to levy fees. Within Europe, the world’s largest LNG import market, the European Union Methane Strategy already calls for such a requirement. UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) will maintain a Methane Supply Index to meet this need and is uniquely positioned as a neutral entity at the center of the methane data ecosystem to ensure its credibility and effectiveness. The imminent methane data revolution – including increasing granularity of satellite monitoring and the growing number of OGMP 2.0 companies disclosing measurement-based data – is powering a move away from generic emission factors and toward more empirical, accurate measurements critical for empowering individuals to fix emissions. The availability of transparent emissions data is necessary, but not sufficient on its own. UNEP’s IMEO is designed to support the path from empirical measurement to action by integrating data from a diversity of sources so they are accessible and intelligible for policymakers, companies, and the public. IMEO played this role consolidating multiple measurements of the massive Nord Stream twin pipeline leak into a single unified perspective. Previously publicized measurements exhibited substantial discrepancies, sometimes differing by an order of magnitude, but by integrating those data in a transparent way IMEO showed how they provided a coherent picture of overall emissions and how they varied over time. Given the rapid proliferation of measurement tools and scales, as well as the variability of emissions across sources, a neutral institution such as IMEO is needed to provide data integration for a Methane Supply Index and present a coherent whole from otherwise disparate pieces of information.
- The Climate and Clean Air Coalition supports countries to produce or improve their methane emissions inventory
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) works with countries to support the development or improvement of their national methane emission inventories through dedicated projects. In 2023, a number of such projects were launched including:
- Deliver a Tier 2 GHG inventory for the agriculture sector in Cambodia,
- Develop Tier 2 Emission Inventory and Mitigation Assessment for the agriculture sector in Nigeria,
- Deliver a methane emissions inventory, mitigation plan and MRV framework for the oil and gas sector in Gabon, and
- Deliver a national methane emission inventory and mitigation assessment for the oil and gas sector to support Iraq meet its mitigation goals.
Support to national methane inventories is also being provided through the CCAC national planning and policy hub in which 43 countries have engaged. 11 of them have now developed national SLCP plans including national methane emission inventories.
- Carbon Mapper advances methane sensing technology and launches a new enhanced data portal including new data and global sources of methane
At COP27, Carbon Mapper announced a new initiative to help guide global action on solid waste methane emissions. As part of this initiative, Carbon Mapper will conduct a first-of-its-kind global assessment of thousands of high-emitting solid waste sites using remote-sensing technologies. Carbon Mapper is working to conduct an initial survey of more than 1,000 managed landfills and dumpsites across the U.S., Canada and key locations in Latin America, Africa and Asia by the end of 2023. In 2024, Carbon Mapper will conduct a more comprehensive global survey of more than 10,000 landfills and dumpsites, leveraging the first two satellites being developed and deployed in partnership between Carbon Mapper, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Planet Labs PBC. Between January and August 2023, Carbon Mapper documented methane plumes at 196 unique landfills and dumpsites globally with a combination of aerial surveys and NASA’s EMIT instrument on their public data portal. In 2023 CarbonMapper launched a new enhanced Carbon Mapper Data Portal which now includes new data and global sources of methane plus improved functionality to make this data more accessible and actionable. A critical component of Carbon Mapper’s mission is to persistently pinpoint, quantify and track strong methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at facility scale and to make this data free and open to the public, providing accessibility and transparency to maximize impact.
- WMO Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (G3W) will provide global fields of the net fluxes of the main GHGs, including methane
In 2023, the WMO announced that it is establishing a new internationally coordinated top-down monitoring of greenhouse gas fluxes, within its GAW programme to support the provision of actionable information to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Parties and other stakeholders. The proposed Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (G3W) will provide global fields of the net fluxes of the main GHGs, including methane, and Parties to the Paris Agreement and other interested stakeholders can use these data to develop products that meet their specific requirements. The platform will build on existing capabilities and the WMO’s experience to lead: integrated global greenhouse gas observing system, both surface- and space-based and routine modelling of greenhouse gases for flux estimations. All information will be available free and unrestricted international exchange of data under the WMO Unified Data Policy.
- Full launch of the Methane Alert and Response System (MARS)
Following a successful pilot phase Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) is expanding. MARS is the first global system that connects satellite-detected methane emissions with a trackable notification process. During its pilot phase, from January to December 2023, MARS detected over 1,000 energy sector methane plumes globally, linked 400 of the plumes to energy sector facilities, and notified 127 events to six national governments and relevant OGMP 2.0 member companies.
- The Global Methane Hub Data to Methane Action Campaign will catalyse innovative data applications to unlock unprecedented methane action
The Global Methane Hub, in collaboration with IMEO and its partners, launched a Campaign to comprehensively deliver increased funding to enable governments, businesses, and other actors to radically reduce methane emissions, including harmful leaks, and drive effective policy change through never-before-leveraged data. At COP28, the Global Methane Hub announced $10 million in seed funding toward the Campaign and a funding target of $300 million by COP29.
- MethaneSAT will find and measure methane emissions with high precision
With high precision and a wide view path, MethaneSAT will track emission rates and locations and show how those emissions are changing over time – making it easier to track performance against legal and voluntary targets, and prioritize solutions for maximum benefit. The MethaneSAT mission objective is to both motivate and enable reduction of methane emissions from the global oil and gas sector by 45% by 2025, and 70% by 2030.
- The United States new Greenhouse Gas Center supports further Progress in Collecting and Disseminating Actionable Methane Data
The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center opens up access to trusted data on greenhouse gases. This multi-agency effort consolidates greenhouse gas information from observations and models. The goal of the US GHG Center is to provide decision-makers with one location for data and analysis.
This initial two-year demonstration phase creates a way to explore and analyze U.S. government and other datasets, targeting three greenhouse gas areas of study, as shown below. The US GHG Center also encourages stakeholder feedback and ideas for future expansion.