Methane emission crisis threatens global climate goals

Urgent action to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel operations is essential to meet global climate targets, the International Energy Agency has warned

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has emphasised the urgency of taking action to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel operations.

Rapid cuts in methane emissions, in addition to substantial reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, are deemed essential to meet global climate targets.

Without such measures, it is anticipated that the global average surface temperature could exceed a 1.6°C increase by 2050, even if fossil fuel use is significantly reduced.

According to a new report by the IEA in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme and the UNEP-convened Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a considerable portion of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, as well as a substantial share of emissions from coal, can be mitigated using existing technologies, often at relatively low costs.

Urgent, targeted efforts to reduce methane emissions in the fossil fuel sector have the potential to prevent numerous premature deaths due to ozone exposure, crop losses attributed to ozone and climate changes and extensive labour hours lost to heat exposure by 2050.

The report underscores the need for appropriate regulatory frameworks and a substantial increase in investment to mitigate methane emissions from fossil fuel production.

The overall expenditure required to implement available methane mitigation strategies in the oil and gas sector through 2030 is less than 2% of the industry’s net income in 2022.

In response to the IEA’s report, Ember’s Climate Strategy Advisor Chris Wright said: “If the climate is cooking, methane is the lighter fluid – and it’s pouring out of our coal mines and gas wells.

“If we’re going to keep warming to 1.5°C, we need to cut methane emissions and at least half those cuts need to come from coal mines, oil and gas wells.

“The estimated impacts of methane emissions are just scary – if we cut methane emissions from the energy sector in the next two decades, we could avoid one million premature deaths and 90 million tonnes of crop losses globally.

“And to think we could avoid all this suffering for only 2% of the fossil fuel industry’s revenue this year alone? It’s just mind bogglingly sensible, and  it’s one of the best opportunities the world has right now to avoid short term climate breakdown.”

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