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Methane emissions decrease, but it is far from enough

By Ground report
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Oil and gas companies are making progress in reducing their emissions of methane, a gas with a great impact on global warming, but both the volumes of the reduction and the quality of the figures on this progress are insufficient, according to a report presented by UNEP.

Methane emissions decrease

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), said that “businesses are making progress, but they must move faster and stronger. We need more companies to act, and they need to be bolder,” on her reductions schedule.

More than 80 oil and gas companies around the world have committed to measuring and reducing their emissions of that gas, according to the report compiled by the International Methane Emissions Observatory, an independent entity that integrates data and tracks commitments. of companies and governments.

Methane (CH4), the main component of natural gas, is responsible for more than 25% of global warming, with a potential 80 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) during the 20 years following its release into the atmosphere.

It is responsible for half of the growth in the formation of tropospheric ozone, a dangerous air pollutant, and is generated mainly in the hydrocarbon industry, in livestock and rice farming, and also in the decomposition of waste by bacteria.

“The best way for the oil and gas industry to end methane emissions, and all emissions, is to completely rethink their roles as energy companies”.

Inger Andersen

Total global methane emissions

UNEP believes that drastically reducing methane emissions is the fastest way to tackle climate change in the short term, since the gas remains in the atmosphere for far fewer years than CO2.

The report covers the second year of progress for the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP), UNEP's mechanism to help companies target mitigation actions and allocate capital efficiently.

Ogmp members include industry giants such as British Petroleum, Shell (Netherlands-UK), ConocoPhillips and Oxy (USA), Adnoc (United Arab Emirates), China Gas, Total (France), Repsol (Spain), ENI (Italy), Uniper and VNG (Germany), Qatar Energy, and Ecopetrol (Colombia).

Of its more than 80 members, 60 are on the program's “Gold Standard” track, committed to sequentially improving the quality of reported data, and moving to measurement-based methane emission estimates.

However, 12 member companies are not on the right track: two lost their “gold” status compared to last year, seven did not make it in either year, and three reported for the first time in 2022 that they did not make it.

Recently published studies put total global methane emissions from industry at 80-140 million tonnes per year, while the International Energy Agency's (IEA) methane tracker estimates emissions at the lower end of this range.

1.3 million tons of methan

The total emissions reported this year by OGMP member companies are 1.3 million tons of methane for both assets operated by them and by other operators.

This represents a large discrepancy between global industry emissions estimates and the proportional part reported by OGMP member companies, which is why UNEP insists on improving the quality of information on the subject.

To keep the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world urgently needs to cut methane emissions by about a third, according to the latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in April 2022.

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 by almost all the nations of the world, set the goals that by the year 2050 the global temperature will not increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in relation to the pre-industrial era (1850-1900), and that at the end of the century it does not increase more than two degrees.

End of methane emissions

UNEP's thesis is that while the ultimate goal is a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, it is also important to curb methane emissions during the transition.

Andersen said that "looking at the big picture, the best way for the oil and gas industry to end methane emissions, and all emissions, is to completely rethink their roles as energy companies."

“If the industry is serious about a net-zero future (zero greenhouse gas emissions), as it must be to provide an opportunity for health, wealth and prosperity for all, this must be the long-term goal,” Andersen added.

The focus of the UNEP observatory has been expanded to cover other important categories of emitters, other than the hydrocarbon industry, collectively responsible for 75% of methane emissions in 2017.

They include livestock (responsible for 33%), waste and landfills (over 20%), coal mining (12%), and rice farming (nearly 10%).

At the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27), to be held in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18, the observatory will launch the first iteration of its public “data platform” for action”, a methane alert and response system.

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