Rapid cuts are needed to slash methane emissions from fossil fuel production to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The report was released yesterday in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UNEP-convened Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC).
The IEA report said rapid cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuels could avoid up to 0.1 °C in global temperature rise by mid-century – greater than the emissions impact of immediately taking all cars and trucks in the world off the road.
Based on modelling of the UNEP/CCAC Global Methane Assessment published in 2021 methane action would prevent nearly 1 million premature deaths due to ozone exposure, 90 million tonnes of crop losses due to ozone and climate changes, and about 85 billion hours of lost labour due to extreme heat by 2050.
This would generate roughly $US260 billion in direct economic benefits through 2050.
IEA executive director, Faith Birol, said reducing methane emissions from the energy sector is one of the best – and most affordable – opportunities to limit global warming in the near term.
“Cutting methane is a low hanging fruit while we work on the overall decarbonization of our economies in tandem with supporting our societies to build greater resilience," he said.
“Investments in maintenance and operational changes that prevent methane from leaking into the atmosphere are a fraction of profits made from fossil fuels.”
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for around 30 per cent of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution; it is the second largest contributor to global warming after CO2.
Under current trajectories, total methane emissions from human activities could rise by up to 13 per cent between 2020 and 2030.
In a scenario that limits warming to 1.5 °C, they need to fall by 30 to 60 per cent over this timeframe.
More than three-quarters of methane emissions from oil and gas operations and half of emissions from coal can be abated with existing technology, often at low cost.
Tackling methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Around $US75 billion in spending is required to 2030 to deploy all methane abatement measures in the oil and gas sector in the IEA’s net zero scenario.
This is equivalent to less than two per cent of the income generated by the oil and gas industry in 2022.