UNEP: more effort required to mitigate methane emissions

AdobeStock 181469704The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released its second report on the International Methane Emissions Observatory at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC)

While many businesses are stepping up their efforts to combat methane, the report expressed that more needs to be done. So far, around 80 companies are now part of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP 2.0), but UNEP expects more companies to join in the upcoming years.

The oil and gas industry represents one of the most significant man-made sources of methane emissions and, due to this, also has the most cost-effective reduction potential. 

Part of the OGMP is the IMEO, whose aim is to create a global public database of empirically verified methane emissions, starting with the fossil fuel sector, at a level of granularity and accuracy never achieved before. 

Steven Hamburg, chair of IMEO's Scientific Oversight Committee, said at a press conference that in 2010, the UNEP had very little data on methane emissions. Besides, the lack of reliable emissions data made it difficult for governments to take targeted action at the scale and speed required to meet the goals of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP).

Hamburg continued that today, the UNEP can “accurately quantify data” and within two years, it can use remote sensing technology with the aid of satellites to create a motion picture of how methane emissions have affected the earth.

Before the launch of the IMEO, said Hamburg, there were multiple sources of data which were conflicting and confusing. He also explained that while the IMEO is a collective of scientists from varied backgrounds conducting independent research, it brings all the conflicting data to improve accuracy and “bridge certainties and uncertainties”. 

Meanwhile, Manfredi Caltagirone, head of UNEP's IMEO, said that accurately quantifying data is an absolute necessity and the first step in mitigating methane emissions.

Caltagirone acknowledged that there is a discrepancy between actual emissions and what companies are reporting, and that the UNEP is not too happy with this. Not all companies have the best levels of accurate reporting on emissions, but the UNEP is positive that it will improve in two years. The other issue that the UN cannot adequately deal with, said Caltagirone, is how governments around the world will use this publicly available data. 

When it comes to methane, the rate of change matters, continued Hamburg, and the rate at which methane is increasing must slow down. This is a key factor in curbing the effects of climate change, and will be crucial in hitting UNEP’s net-zero target by 2030. 

UNEP’s executive director, Inger Andersen, surmised, “Cutting methane emissions is the fastest way to tackle climate change in the short-term, as it remains in the atmosphere for far fewer years than carbon dioxide. Companies are making progress, but they must move faster and harder. We need more companies to act, and they must be bolder.” 

For this, more reliable and updated data is needed. Information on where, when, and how those emissions are changing over time is part of quality data that can aid in taking proper action. Data recorded at source and site level, along with satellites aiding in remote sensing technology will improve quality data on emissions. 

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