The ambition-raising opportunity of reducing methane emissions

This blog was written by Alice Alpert, Senior Climate Scientist at EDF.

Evening silhouette of the oilfield pipeline. Source: Getty Images

Not only is meaningful reduction in methane emissions possible — such efforts can potentially have a massive impact on warming.

Easily available methane abatement methods can result in an avoided temperature rise of a whopping 0.25°C by 2050. This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that reducing methane emissions would also reduce peak warming and reduce the likelihood of warming exceeding levels outlined in the Paris Agreement. In pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C, methane will be reduced by about 33% in 2030 and 50% in 2050. But not all countries define methane targets or are even including methane in their Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs).

The global inventory process, also known as the “ratchet” of Paris Agreement ambitions, allows countries to assess collective progress towards the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement on mitigation, adaptation and financing. A successful inventory will help countries implement their existing climate change commitments and give them the impetus and information they need to raise the ambition of their next NDCs. EDF is collaborating with C2ES on a major project to shape the global inventory process by identifying opportunities to increase climate ambition.

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As work on the global inventory draws to a close at next year’s COP28, it is important that all NDCs include methane-specific targets and policies and strategies to achieve those targets.

Low hanging fruit

Fortunately, parties can now commit to readily available, low-cost strategies to reduce methane emissions. The oil and gas sector offers the largest share of low-cost abatement opportunities. In fact, the IPCC Working Group III report (2022) found that 50-80% of methane in the oil and gas sector worldwide could be reduced with existing technology for less than $50/tCO2e. And the current high gas prices make the cost of this mitigation even lower.

Both producing and importing countries can use a range of policy tools to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. EDF strongly encourages countries to consider these policy options as best practices, lessons learned and success stories and to include them in the NDC targets.

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Their efforts are supported by those campaigning for methane action. Countries that have joined the Global Methane Pledge, the Global Methane Hub, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) are ready to help design and implement policies to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector and others in the waste and agriculture sectors.

Better data means more action

As countries reduce methane emissions, it will be crucial to gain a more accurate understanding of where these emissions are coming from, as this has clear implications for where to focus mitigation efforts.

Existing methods can underestimate methane emissions from the oil and gas supply chain. In fact, recent research has shown that initial assumptions without measurement-based data would, in some cases, point to the wrong sources of methane to consider for emission reductions. Similarly, some observations have shown that traditional inventory methods have both overestimated and underestimated emissions.

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For example, recent studies (1, 2) based on multi-scale measurements showed that 50% of oil and gas methane emissions in Mexico were concentrated in a single onshore basin – while previously available inventories would have pointed to the offshore producing region as the key offtake opportunity .

With more accurate emissions data based on atmospheric measurements, countries can better track their mitigation efforts and recognize their own progress. Over the past decade, EDF has advanced these techniques by coordinating a number of methane science studies – efforts to provide policy-relevant data on methane emissions will continue with the forthcoming launch of MethaneSAT.

And with such improved information, in a virtuous circle, the GST process can more accurately assess collective progress and identify opportunities for action.

note: EDF and C2ES will discuss these and other mitigation opportunities during their New York Climate Week event, The Paris Agreement’s ‘Report Card’: How the Global Stocktake Can Raise Global Ambition. Register here.

Further reading

EDF Global Inventory Submissions:

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