IEA Anticipates Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuels to Decline Soon

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Analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that methane emissions from the energy sector will face a decline, thanks to policies, regulations, and pledges emerging from the COP28 climate summit held in Dubai.

IEA’s latest Global Methane Tracker update, the first comprehensive assessment since the conclusion of COP28 in December, highlights that the production and utilization of fossil fuels contributed to nearly 120 million tonnes of methane emissions in 2023, representing a slight increase compared to the previous year. Additionally, bioenergy activities, mainly traditional biomass use for tasks like cooking, contributed another 10 million tonnes of methane emissions.

Key findings from the report pinpoint the top 10 emitting countries responsible for approximately 80 million tonnes of fossil fuel-related methane emissions in 2023, with the United States, Russia, and China leading the pack in respective sectors.

Satellite observations continue to enhance understanding, identifying a significant increase in major fossil fuel leaks in 2023 compared to the previous year, including emissions from a prolonged well blowout in Kazakhstan, IEA said in its report.

Despite these alarming figures, global efforts are underway to address methane emissions. To meet international climate targets and limit global warming to 1.5°C as outlined in the Paris Agreement, a 75 percent reduction in methane emissions from fossil fuels is crucial by the end of this decade, according to IEA analysis.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol emphasized the urgency, stating, “A 75 percent cut in methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030 is imperative to stop the planet from warming to a dangerous level.” Birol highlighted recent momentum and stressed the importance of translating commitments into action, leveraging existing policies and technologies to mitigate emissions.

Anticipated acceleration in methane emission reduction efforts in 2024 and beyond follows the commitments made at COP28, where nearly 200 governments pledged to substantially reduce methane emissions by 2030. Notable regulatory initiatives from Canada, the European Union, and the United States complement these efforts, with additional commitments from companies through initiatives like the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter.

The IEA’s analysis indicates that if all current methane reduction pledges are fulfilled, emissions from fossil fuels could be cut by 50 percent by 2030. However, implementation plans for most pledges are yet to be established.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, contributes significantly to global warming. While it dissipates faster than carbon dioxide, its short-term impact necessitates urgent action to curb emissions, particularly from the energy sector. The IEA’s analysis suggests that reducing methane emissions is not only essential for climate goals but also cost-effective, requiring minimal investment compared to industry revenue.

Satellite technology, such as the recently launched MethaneSAT by the Environmental Defense Fund, plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing methane leaks, complementing traditional data sources.

However, existing reporting from oil and gas companies and countries significantly underestimates methane emissions, highlighting the need for improved monitoring and transparency. The IEA aims to address this gap by providing open-access data and tools for methane abatement in oil and gas operations.

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