The production and use of fossil fuels comprise around 35% of global anthropogenic methane emissions. Of the three main methane emitting sectors, fossil fuel energy has the greatest potential to deliver drastic methane mitigation this decade due to current ready-to-implement and cost-effective technical abatement measures. These measures include upstream and downstream leak detection and repair, recovery and utilization of vented gas, improved control of unintended fugitive emissions from the production of oil and natural gas, and coal mine methane management.
The fossil energy sector has the largest, fastest, and cheapest methane reduction potential across sectors, and must deliver over half of all methane reductions by 2030 in all credible pathways to achieve the Global Methane Pledge. As the International Energy Agency (IEA) and CCAC made clear in a recent report, even deep cuts in fossil energy production and use will not limit warming to 1.5°C without immediate additional action to cut methane emissions from fossil fuels.
Many of these methane emission reductions can be realized while saving money and, by 2030, could prevent nearly one million premature deaths due to ozone exposure, about 90 million tonnes of crop losses due to ozone and climate changes, and about 85 billion hours of lost labour due to heat exposure by 2050-providing roughly US$260 billion in total market benefits.
In June 2022, the United States, the European Union, and 11 other countries launched the GMP Energy Pathway to accelerate methane emissions reductions in the fossil energy sector, cleaning up our near-term fossil energy consumption as an essential complement to the clean energy transition.
Key initiatives under the GMP energy pathway have made new headways
- World Bank launches the Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership
At COP27, the World Bank president outlined plans to expand financing to tackle methane emissions and leverage the World Bank’s experience in helping reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in key emitting sectors: agriculture, energy, sanitation, and waste. Following up on this commitment and building on the existing Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) trust fund, the World Bank is launching a new trust fund, the Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership (GFMR). GFMR’s mission is to boost global efforts to end routine gas flaring and reduce methane emissions to the greatest extent possible along the entire oil and gas value chain by providing technical assistance, enabling policy and regulatory reform, institutional strengthening, and mobilising financing to support governments and operators. With $255 million in new grant funding, the GFMR is supported by financial contributions from the United Arab Emirates, US, Norway, BP, ENI, Equinor, Occidental, Shell, and TotalEnergies. Access to project development and financing support through GFMR will be contingent on commitments to achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030 by reducing methane intensity to below 0.2%, achieve zero routine flaring by 2030, measure and report methane emissions through the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 framework, and endorse the Global Methane Pledge.
- IMEO Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) tracks over 1000 methane plumes during the pilot phase
The rapidly increasing diversity and precision of methane detection satellites requires coordination to focus action. The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) – launched at COP27 by the UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) – is the first global system that connects satellite-detected methane emissions with a trackable notification process. MARS harnesses available satellite data to identify major methane emission events (plumes) and hot spots, activate a network of partners to determine and notify relevant stakeholders, and support and track progress towards mitigation. This system also incentivizes corporations and governments to credibly reduce their methane emissions. During its pilot phase, from January to July 2023, MARS detected over 1,000 energy sector methane plumes globally. With the help of other high-resolution satellites, 400 of the plumes were attributed to energy sector facilities. Six national governments and relevant OGMP 2.0 member companies were notified of sixty-eight of these plumes.Through MARS, the IMEO is building the infrastructure and practice to take full advantage of the upcoming data revolution to deliver unprecedented transparency on methane emissions.
- Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 includes 116 member companies, covering 37% of global oil and gas production in 68 countries.
As of mid-2023, UNEP’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 has expanded to 116 member companies. The Partnership also welcomed the Clean Air Task Force as a non-company member. This marks a significant increase from the 62 companies that joined at the launch in 2020 when the Partnership’s scope and ambition was expanded to become OGMP 2.0. OGMP 2.0 members now jointly cover 37% of global oil and gas production in 68 countries, over 70% of LNG flows, 25% of global natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines and over 10% of global storage capacity. US membership grew substantially to reach 20 companies. More major National Oil Companies (NOC) joined, such as Petronas, Petrobras and Thailand’s PTTEP. Several major joint venture companies, such as Nigeria LNG, have also joined as direct members instead of through their shareholders.There has also been a rapid increase in higher-quality emissions measuring at Levels 4 and 5, replacing previous estimates made using emission factors. Level 4 defines how to measure and report source-level methane emissions, and level five adds the necessary step of reconciliation of source and site level measurements. For the 84 companies who’ve attained OGMP 2.0’s Gold Standard Pathway, which demands a credible path towards measurement-based emissions reporting, this designation provides regulators, investors and the general public a reliable indicator of companies’ methane performance. As methane mitigation occurs at assets around the world, a notable gap persists between the emissions reported by companies and the total amount measured in the atmosphere. We need more data transparency to bridge this gap, and UNEP’s IMEO is establishing the de facto global standard for oil and gas Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) through integrating the OGMP 2.0 with other IMEO sources, such as its scientific measurement studies and satellite-based Methane Alert and Response System. By drawing on this array of data, its growing membership, and its focus on direct measurements, OGMP 2.0 is increasingly recognized as the preeminent global MRV providing stakeholders a reliable signal of companies’ methane management.
- Emissions inventories, methane guidelines and MRV frameworks are being implemented in Iraq, Nigeria and Gabon with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition
The CCAC works with its partners to mitigate methane from the fossil fuel sector by supporting governments seeking to improve their national regulatory framework through improved emissions inventories, methane guidelines and MRV framework. After launching the OGMP in 2014, the CCAC continues to support the OGMP 2.0 setting the standard for transparency of methane emissions reporting by oil and gas companies. In 2023, the CCAC is supporting Iraq with methane mitigation assessment and sector emission inventories, and is supporting the development of MRV frameworks in Nigeria and Gabon, and implementation of Mexico’s 2018 "Guidelines for the Prevention and Comprehensive Control of Methane Emissions from the Hydrocarbons Sector”.
- Energy Importers and Exporters Declaration enters implementation
At COP27, the U.S., EU, Japan, Canada, Norway, Singapore, and the United Kingdom released a Joint Declaration from Energy Importers and Exporters on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels. These countries cover over half of global gas import volumes and over one-third of global gas production. The Declaration commits signatories to work towards the creation of an international market for fossil energy that minimizes methane and CO2 emissions to the fullest extent practicable. The Declaration also calls on fossil energy importers to take steps to reduce the methane emissions associated with their energy consumption and calls on producers to implement projects and policies to cut emissions from fossil fuel operations. Since COP27, Joint Declaration countries have continued to work together and with other countries on efforts to measure and mitigate emissions from internationally traded fossil fuels, including through the G7 call to develop an internationally aligned approach for methane measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV) for fossil energy value chains, and engagements through the GHG Supply Chain Emissions MMRV Framework Working Group.
- Global Methane Hub Partnerships Increase Fossil Fuel Accountability
The Global Methane Hub (GMH) has helped raise global awareness about the detrimental health impacts of gas-fired stoves by supporting campaigns like Climate Nexus' "Gas Leaks". GMH also established an impactful partnership with US organization Earthworks, which use optical gas imaging cameras to expose otherwise invisible and odorless oil and gas methane pollution. These images provide evidence of where federal and state policies allow major polluters to evade accountability. Earthworks promptly reported detected leaks to state inspectors in Pennsylvania, prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to introduce new regulations aimed at closing these loopholes. This pivotal development not only helps safeguard millions of individuals residing near these operations but also curbs methane emissions from the industry. In China, GMH is supporting the work of nine prominent non-governmental organizations to devise a comprehensive plan to mitigate methane emissions stemming from China's coal, waste, and agricultural sectors. This initiative aligns with China's expressed desire for enhanced technical capabilities to realize its mitigation objectives, as articulated during U.S.-China bilateral discussions.
- Clean Air Task Force raises methane policy ambition in multiple continents
In support of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP), Clean Air Task Force (CATF) continues to work with national governments, NGOs and industry leaders worldwide to not only join the Pledge but to develop robust, long-lasting commitments to quickly cut methane pollution and turn ambition into practice. It encourages countries to include quantitative methane reduction targets in their revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and develop methane reduction plans. Examples include:
Authoring a report showing strong regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector would support up to 220,000 high-quality U.S.-based jobs.
Producing a roadmap report on the development of a methane import standard through a collaborative group of international experts from more than 15 different organisations, including the IEA, UNEP, and the University of Oxford.
Growing the number of partner governments that use the Country Methane Abatement Tool (CoMAT) to quantify methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and proposing actions to reduce them (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana). We have secured an agreement to collaborate with Gabon and Iraq from this fall of 2023 onwards.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works with PEMEX to identify priority actions for methane reductions from PEMEX operations
In the oil and gas sector, under the auspices of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiated a technical collaboration with Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) to conduct a techno-economic analysis of PEMEX's onshore oil and natural gas operations to identify priority actions for methane reductions.
- The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative expands its Satellite Monitoring Campaign
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) is expanding its Satellite Monitoring Campaign to provide actionable data to reduce emissions from large-magnitude methane plumes and flares, supported by in-kind contributions from OGCI companies. ExxonMobil also intends to provide up to $25 million in in-kind assistance to address capability shortcomings to reduce methane emissions.