Facts about Methane

Methane Molecule, Credit: Vchal for iStock
Methane Molecule, Credit: Vchal for iStock

What You Need to Know About Methane

  • Methane (CH4), the primary component of natural gas, is responsible for more than 25 per cent of the warming we are experiencing today. (IPCC)
  • Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a Global Warming Potential more than 80 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) during the 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere.
  • Methane is responsible for around half of the growth in tropospheric ozone formation, a dangerous air pollutant. (UNEP)
  • The European Union, the United States and Partners have launched the Global Methane Pledge to champion methane mitigation in the short-term. Over 100 countries representing 70% of the global economy have now joined the Pledge and committed to reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.
  • The 1.5°C target cannot be achieved without reducing methane emissions by 40-45% by 2030. Reduction of this magnitude would avoid nearly 0.3° C of warming by 2045 and complement long-term climate change mitigation efforts. (CCAC)

Launched at the G20 Summit, the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) is a data-driven, action-focused initiative by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with support from the European Commission to catalyse dramatic reduction of methane emissions, starting with the energy sector.  

IMEO is set to revolutionize the approach to methane reduction by interconnecting data with action on research, reporting, and regulation. IMEO will collect and integrate diverse methane emissions data streams to establish a global public record of empirically verified methane emissions at an unprecedented level of accuracy and granularity.

In Energy

Why Is Methane Mitigation in The Oil and Gas Sector Critical For Reaching 1.5 Target?

  • In 2030, annual emissions need to be 15 GtCO2e lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2°C goal, and 32 GtCO2e lower for the 1.5°C goal. (UNEP)
  • If oil and gas methane emissions are reduced by 75%, overall greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 6 GtCO2e[1]
  • Oil and gas is the only sector for which the majority of emissions can be reduced in a cost-effective manner with technologies that exist today.(CCAC)
  • It is also the most immediate and lowest cost option to reduce this potent greenhouse gas. The industry could reduce its worldwide emissions by 75% and that up to 40% of those reductions can be realized at zero net cost. (IEA)
  • Lowering global oil and gas methane emissions by 45% would achieve as much climate benefit in the next 20 years as closing 1000 coal plants.[2]
  • Methane mitigation is an economic and environmental win-win. As natural gas is composed mostly of methane, emissions of methane from the oil and gas value chain represent a wasted product that translates into roughly $34 billion of lost revenue per year, at average 2017 delivered prices. (UNEP)

1 This figure was calculated using a global warming potential (GWP) of 86 for methane. As a result, it should not be directly compared to the emissions gap, where a lower GWP was used.

2 Estimate based on EPA 2013 Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Woman Oil Platform, Credit: Shutterstock

How does UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) help to Achieve the Deep Reduction of Fossil Methane?

  • Achieving methane reduction on the scale and at the speed necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals will require more targeted and ambitious actions – and for that, near-real time, accurate, and granular data on the locations and quantity of methane emissions are needed.
  • To address the data problem, United Nations Environment Programme and the European Commission have established International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), which is a revolutionary data entity that brings data transparency, science, and government action together on the scale needed to address the methane emissions problem.
  • The core function of IMEO is to take near-real-time data and integrate it to create a public dataset of empirically verified methane emissions, by taking multiple data streams generated through peer-reviewed methodologies, and then compiling them using advanced data science methodologies.
  • The key to the IMEO data approach is company data collected through Oil and Gas Methane Partnership. Through IMEO, the company data will be verified against other data sources to provide the highest level of confidence to stakeholders that company targets are being achieved.
  • The final product will be a public dataset that provides a detailed picture of emissions around the world. These findings will support science-based policy actions that are critical for countries and companies alike to pursue in order to limit warming to 2or even 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Satellite, Credit: Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Reducing methane emissions

The Paris Agreement cannot be achieved without reducing methane emissions by 40-45% by 2030.

  • The Paris Agreement cannot be achieved without reducing methane emissions by 40-45% by 2030. Reduction of this magnitude would avoid nearly 0.3° C of warming by 2045 and complement long-term climate change mitigation efforts. (CCAC)
  • Agriculture is the largest single source of global methane emissions, responsible for roughly 40% of manmade emissions; Fossil fuels are the second largest source, responsible for approximately 36% of emissions, with waste and others making up the rest. (CCAC)
  • Limiting climate warming below 1.5 -degrees will require “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes”, including “deep reductions” in non-CO2 emissions like methane. (IPCC)
  • Methane is increasingly a global climate priority, with ambition for addressing emissions building among both governments and companies. (UNEP)