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Methane emissions from energy set to decline soon - IEA

State-of-the-art satellites are making it easier to identify and address methane emissions. (Image source: Canva)

Methane emissions from the energy sector remained near a record high in 2023 – but new policies and regulations, as well as fresh pledges stemming from COP28 Dubai, have catalysed efforts to reduce methane emissions and could result in a decline, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)

The IEA's latest edition of its Global Methane Tracker finds that the production and use of fossil fuels resulted in close to 120 million tonnes of methane emissions in 2023, up slightly from the 2022 total.

According to the report, the USA came top of the list for methane emissions from oil and gas operations, closely followed by Russia. The top 10 emitting countries were responsible for around 80 million tonnes of methane emissions from fossil fuels in 2023, two-thirds of the global total.

Middle East energy-related methane emissions stood at 15,949 kt, with top emitters being Iran (6126 kt), fourth globally; Saudi Arabia (2429 kt), 13th globally and Iraq (2298 kt, 14th globally). However these were dwarfed by the USA’s total of 16,017 kt.

Nearly 200 governments agreed at COP28 to “substantially” reduce methane emissions by 2030, while regulatory initiatives were announced by Canada, the European Union and the USA. New companies have also committed to action through the launch of the Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter, and more countries are joining the Global Methane Pledge.

If all methane pledges made by countries and companies to date are implemented in full and on time, methane emissions from fossil fuels could be cut by 50% by 2030, according to the IEA. However, most pledges are not yet backed up by plans for implementation.

A growing number of state-of-the-art satellites monitoring methane leaks, such as the Environmental Defense Fund’s recently launched MethaneSAT, is making it easier to identify and address methane emissions.

“A 75% cut in methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030 is imperative to stop the planet from warming to a dangerous level. I am encouraged by the momentum we’ve seen in recent months, which our analysis shows could make an enormous and immediate difference in the world’s fight against climate change,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.

“Now, we must focus on transforming commitments into action – while continuing to aim higher. Well known policies and existing technologies could reduce methane emissions from fossil fuels substantially. The IEA stands ready to help the energy sector meet its goals by deploying these measures, and we will continue to monitor progress – a key part of our wider efforts to ensure countries deliver on the energy promises they made at COP28.”