Global methane emissions from the energy sector, namely from oil, gas and coal are about 70 per cent greater than the amount national governments have officially reported, a new analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows.
At present, the energy sector accounts for around 40 per cent of methane emissions from human activity. Last year, the trend went up by 5 per cent, underlining the urgent need for enhanced monitoring efforts and stronger policy action.
According to the IEA, if all methane leaks from fossil fuel operations in 2021 had been captured and sold, markets would have been supplied with an additional 180 billion cubic metres of natural gas. This would be the equivalent to all the gas used in Europe’s power sector and more than enough to ease today’s market tightness.
“At today’s elevated natural gas prices, nearly all of the methane emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide could be avoided at no net cost”, noted Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of IEA.
“The International Energy Agency has been a longstanding champion of stronger action to cut methane emissions. A vital part of those efforts is transparency on the size and location of the emissions, which is why the massive underreporting revealed by our Global Methane Tracker is so alarming”, he underscored.
The IEA’s Global Methane Tracker incorporates the latest readings from satellites and other science-based measurement campaigns. While measured data used in it continues to improve, the coverage is still far from complete as existing satellites do not provide measurements over equatorial regions, offshore operations, or northern areas such as the main Russian oil and gas producing areas.
“Methane is the second biggest contributor to global warming. Rapidly cutting methane emissions is therefore a key part of our efforts to tackle the climate crisis. As established in the Global Methane Pledge, we need more precise data on actual methane emissions. By measuring, reporting, and verifying, we will know where emissions cuts are most urgent. The IEA’s report underscores the necessity of this effort”, said Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission.
The Global Methane Pledge, launched in November by more than 110 countries at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, marked an important step forward. Led by the European Union and the United States, its participants agreed to slash methane emissions from human activities – including agriculture, the energy sector and other sources – by 30 per cent by 2030. However, from all major emitters of the planet, only the United States joined the Pledge.
“The Global Methane Pledge must become a landmark moment in the world’s efforts to drive down emissions,” said Dr Birol.
“Cutting global methane emissions from human activities by 30 per cent by the end of this decade would have the same effect on global warming by 2050 as shifting the entire transport sector to net-zero CO2 emissions”, he concluded.