MENA Climate Week: Key Takeaways from UNEP-CCAC Event on Reducing Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Value Chain


Between the 8-12th October, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Climate Week took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The MENA region is a key player in the fossil fuels sector globally and is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, given its challenges with extreme heat and water scarcity.

The week of activities included a UNEP-CCAC hosted side event focused on Reducing Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Value Chain.  

Several important points of consensus emerged from the event, including:

IEA Report Leaves No Room for Fossil Fuel Methane  

MENA Climate Week hosted the release of a joint report on the imperative of cutting fossil fuel methane by the International Energy Agency, United Nations Environment Programme and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The MENA region’s prominent role in the oil and gas sector means its actions can have an important influence on fossil fuel policies globally.  

Methane’s impact on the climate is so significant that even under pathways that factor in much higher fossil fuel use, targeted deployment of methane mitigation solutions would avoid roughly 0.1 °C warming in 2050 – comparable to immediately eliminating all CO2 emissions from the world’s heavy industry. 

The report launch was accompanied by a panel discussion where panellists from the Government of Iraq, The International Finance Corporation, Aramco, and the COP28 Presidency team agreed that mitigating methane emissions should not be viewed as a burden due to its net negative costs, and the fact that the oil and gas sector has the most easily implemented solutions available, while being the second largest emitting sector.  

The Private Sector has the Capacity to Make an Essential Contribution  

Discussions at MENA Climate Week also focused on the need for the private sector to play an active role in ensuring emissions reductions and in investing in technology to reach and exceed current methane reduction targets. The UAE COP28 Presidency has called for faster decarbonization in the fossil fuels sector and has succeeded in agreeing on a net-zero-by-2050 pledge with some oil and gas companies.  

For their part, governments must ensure transparent regulatory frameworks and monitoring of methane reduction actions. Policy tools include mandating leak detection and repair programmes, technology standards and bans on non-emergency flaring and venting. Further reductions can be achieved with the help of more accurate and reliable data on emissions and abatement opportunities, including more robust measurement and reporting mechanisms. 

Many companies in the region are already members of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, a UNEP-CCAC initiative operating the only comprehensive, measurement-based international reporting framework for the sector.

“Everyone must be at the table to make the transformational progress needed, especially the energy industry. That’s why we have called on all International Oil Companies and National Oil Companies to step up and align around the call for net zero by or before 2050, and to eliminate routine flaring and methane emissions by 2030,” said Dr Abdullah Malek from the COP28 Energy Transition Team speaking at the launch of the joint IEA, UNEP, and CCAC report.  

The IEA report also highlighted the need for a dramatic ramp-up in investment in mitigating methane emissions from fossil fuel production. According to the report, total spending required to deploy all available methane mitigation strategies in the oil and gas sector through 2030 is less than 2% of the net income earned by the oil and gas industry in 2022. The report stated that most measures can and should be financed by the industry itself, but a number of low- and middle-income countries may face barriers to accessing capital for some interventions, which may not be implemented without concessional financing. 

Iraq Set to Expand Methane Ambition 

Major oil and gas producer and CCAC Partner Iraq is in the process of developing a national methane emissions inventory, a methane mitigation assessment, and a legislative framework for the oil and gas sector to help meet its mitigation goals for the sector. Iraq is also working closely with UNEP, CCAC and implementing partners to expand the ambition to reduce methane emissions in its next NDC update.  
“Iraq is working on addressing human and technical capacity gaps in the Ministry of Oil. Our technology needs assessment has helped us make progress in this area. Now the Ministry of Oil is working on amending National Energy Plan, which will include a chapter focused on investing in methane,” said Yousif Muayad, Director of Climate Change at Iraq’s Ministry of Environment.