Oil and gas companies are not doing enough to cut methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) on 21 February. The lack of action is in spite of the fact that high energy prices mean abatement measures mostly pay for themselves.
In its latest annual Global Methane Tracker report, the IEA found that total emissions from the energy sector rose slightly last year to 135mn tonnes. This figure is just below 2019’s record high. And this is despite emissions-reducing steps that would largely pay for themselves.
The agency estimates that a 75% reduction in methane emissions would cost $100bn – less than 3% of the income of oil and gas companies worldwide last year.
The IEA said:
Based on the record gas prices seen around the world in 2022, we estimate that about 80 percent of the options to reduce emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide could be implemented at no net cost.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol added:
Our new Global Methane Tracker shows that some progress is being made but that emissions are still far too high and not falling fast enough – especially as methane cuts are among the cheapest options to limit near-term global warming.
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There is just no excuse.
Stemming methane emissions is essential
Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. As it has a faster and more powerful impact than carbon dioxide reductions, methane emissions may prove the best way to limit short-term climate breakdown and rapidly improve air quality.
The energy sector accounts for around 40% of such emissions attributable to human activity, second only to agriculture. However, cost-effective solutions are available.
“We estimate that around 70 percent of methane emissions from fossil fuel operations could be reduced with existing technology,” the IEA said in its report. It added that the most impactful measure countries can take to rein in emissions is stopping all non-emergency flaring and venting of methane.
The IEA also noted that the explosions last year which destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines that carried Russian natural gas to Germany released a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere.
However, the agency said:
normal oil and gas operations around the world release the same amount of methane as the Nord Stream explosion every single day.
Not on course for net zero
The increased emissions are in spite of 150 countries having now joined the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions from human activity by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.
The IEA believes that methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector need to drop by 75% by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050. The agency believes this target provides the mean increase in global temperature a chance at keeping below two degrees Celsius, the upper-bound enshrined in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.
Featured image via Richard Web/Geograph, creative commons license, resized to 770*403
Additional reporting by Agence France-PresseSupport us and go ad-free
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