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Methane’s Moment: A Global Alliance for Deep Reductions in Methane Pollution from the Oil and Gas Sector

June 17, 2019 Work Area: Methane

Until about two years ago, the oil and gas methane pollution corner of the climate world was fairly quiet.  CATF had been working on methane and other super pollutants like black carbon since the first scientific recognition of the dangers of short-lived climate pollutants (aka super pollutants) back in the early 2000s.  But in 2016, things really started to move.  The U.S. federal government finalized the first national regulations for methane emissions from the oil and gas sector in May of that year.  Then, over the summer, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. agreed at the North America Leaders Summit (NALS) to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% by 2025.

CATF was already working on methane in both Canada and Mexico, but progress was slow, which is not surprising when tackling a new environmental issue.  But once Prime Minister Trudeau and President Peña-Nieto signed onto the NALS agreement, things took off.  The regulators in both countries were given the green light to move on methane – and move they did.  At the end of last year, we had strong final regulations in both Canada and Mexico covering the oil and gas sector, on both existing and new sources.

The change in Ottawa and Mexico City following the NALS agreement got us thinking about the impact of political will. It made us realize just how impactful strong political direction could be in getting real, on the ground progress in cutting global warming pollution.  We started talking with our partners in civil society, the regulators we work with around the world, and with international bodies like the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) about the need to elevate methane in the political arena.  The notion of a methane pledge began to take shape: a high-level political commitment where countries would dramatically cut their methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

We are thrilled that the pledge is now becoming a reality.  At the end of this past May, the CCAC, in coalition with several nations, civil society groups like CATF, and some progressive oil and gas companies, formally announced the launch of the Global Methane Alliance (GMA).  The GMA’s platform calls for reductions of methane from the oil and gas sector of 45% by 2025 and 60% to 75% by 2030.  These targets are in line with both the NALS and what the International Energy Agency (IEA) said was doable.  IEA found that a 45% reduction would only target the negative cost and zero cost opportunities in the oil and gas sector, but that a 75% reduction was achievable with today’s technologies.  The 45% reduction alone will eventually have the same climate impact as shutting down every coal plant in China!

CATF is continuing to find a willingness of other countries to emulate Canada and Mexico.  In conjunction with other NGOs and international organizations, CATF is now working directly with Colombia, Argentina and Nigeria, to consider robust policies to rein in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.  Just this week we were in Lima, Peru for a joint meeting of the CCAC, UN Environment Program, and the Global Methane Alliance with countries and companies throughout South America (group photo below).  Representatives from energy and environment ministries in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru were present to hear about the prospects for methane reductions from the oil and gas sector and how they can contribute to countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  Key national and international oil and gas companies were present as well, to discuss how they are working to reduce methane pollution as part of their efforts to lower their carbon intensities.

GMA participants
Global Methane Alliance participants in Lima, Peru

At the UN Climate Summit this September in New York, the GMA will be showcasing the growing country-level commitments to the pledge and calling on all countries to join and to include the pledge in their next round of NDCs that will be submitted to the UN in 2020.  The coalition of groups, countries, and companies that make up the GMA have also committed to the necessary follow-through to take the pledge and the NDCs, and work with countries to facilitate the adoption of domestic policies that dramatically cuts methane pollution.

No other single action on climate change can provide such a relatively easy win with so much environmental benefit.  The time for political ambition on climate change is now.  Join us in supporting the Global Methane Alliance.

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