Industry Insights

UNEP launched Methane Observatory to boost action on Greenhouse Gas

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with support from the European Union, launched a new Observatory to drive action on reducing methane emissions – a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for at least a quarter of the current climate warming.

Remco Takken November 2, 2021
Methane Observatory launched to boost action on powerful climate-warming gas

UNEP presented the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) at the G20 Summit/ COP26 in Glasgow. IMEO will improve the reporting accuracy and public transparency of human-caused methane emissions. Initially, it will focus on methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector. Later on it should expand to other major emitting sectors like agriculture and waste. Hosted by UNEP, IMEO is budgeted at EUR 100 million over five years. To maintain its independence and credibility, it will receive no industry funding. Instead, governments and philanthropies will entirely fund IMEO. As a founding member, the European Commission will provide core resources. IMEO will provide the means to prioritize actions and monitor commitments made by state actors in the Global Methane Pledge. This is a US- and EU-led effort by over thirty countries. Its aim is to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Prioritize actions and monitor commitments

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of WGIC Partner International Energy Agency remarked: “Cutting methane emissions is vital to address near-term global warming. Oil, gas and coal companies have to step up and take the lead alongside governments. There are tried and tested ways to do this, all of which are helped by improving the accuracy of data on the sources of emissions and the opportunities to reduce them. The new International Methane Emissions Observatory can play a very valuable role in equipping policy makers, companies and investors with the data they need to drive deep cuts in emissions. The IEA is pleased to continue its support for these efforts.”

Methane: over 80 times more potent than CO2

To stay on track to reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate change to 1.5°C, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that if the world is to achieve the 1.5°C temperature target, deep methane emissions reductions must be achieved over this time. Methane released directly into the atmosphere is more than 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time horizon. However, as methane’s atmospheric lifespan is relatively short – 10 to 12 years – actions to cut methane emissions can yield the most immediate reduction in the rate of warming, while also delivering air quality benefits.

Keep climate targets in reach

“As highlighted by IPCC, if the world is serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change, we need to cut methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry. But this is not a get-out-of-jail free card: methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonize the energy system to limit warming to 1.5°C, as called for in the Paris Agreement,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Methane is one of the most dangerous gases for our climate. We urgently need to reduce methane emissions to keep our climate targets in reach. Better satellite monitoring is essential and the EU is proud to support the creation of the International Methane Emissions Observatory.”

IMEO: an independent and trusted entity

The Observatory will produce a global public dataset of empirically verified methane emissions. Starting with the fossil fuel sector at an increasing level of granularity and accuracy by integrating data principally from four streams. Firstly, reporting from the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0). Secondly, direct measurement data from scientific studies, remote sensing data. Thirdly, national inventories. IMEO engages companies and governments around the world to utilize this data to target strategic mitigation actions and support science-based policies. Lastly, there’s data collected through OGMP 2.0, launched in November 2020 in the framework of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. OGMP 2.0 is the only comprehensive, measurement-based reporting framework for the oil and gas sector, and its 74 member companies represent many of the world’s largest operators across the entire value chain, with assets that account for over 30 per cent of all oil and gas production.

IMEO: First Annual Report

In a report released to coincide with the launch, IMEO laid out its Theory of Change, at the heart of which is the need for an independent and trusted entity to integrate these multiple sources of heterogenous data into a coherent and policy-relevant dataset. The report also includes the analysis of the first reports submitted by the company members of the OGMP 2.0. During this first year, most companies put significant effort into reporting and outlined ambitious 2025 reduction targets. Out of the 55 companies that set targets, 30 meet or exceed the recommended targets of 45% reduction or near-zero methane intensity, and 51 have submitted plans that provide confidence the accuracy of their data will improve in the next 3-5 years.

For further reading: An Eye on Methane: International Methane Emissions Observatory 2021 Report