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Methane mitigation at COP28: 4 criteria for evaluating methane commitments at the world’s largest climate summit

November 15, 2023 Work Area: Methane

This article is part of our COP28 series. Learn more about CATF at COP28.

Reducing methane pollution is the best strategy we have to slow climate change in the next two decades. Why? For starters, while methane is a short-lived (20 years) greenhouse gas, it has over 80 times the warming potential as carbon dioxide. It’s also the second largest contributor to climate change — responsible for about half a degree of current warming. Given this, deep reductions in methane emissions are critical to keeping global climate goals within reach and avoiding near-term climate impacts.   

Methane emissions primarily come from three sectors: fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), agriculture, and waste. The good news is that we have readily available solutions to reduce methane emissions from all three major emitting sectors. In fact, using currently available technologies, we could cut methane emissions by at least 45% by 2030, enough to avoid 0.3°C of warming by the 2040s. 

In the run-up to COP28 and the second anniversary of the Global Methane Pledge — a landmark commitment by over 150 countries to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by 2030 — we expect to see a sharpened focus on action and finance that can turn ambition into reality on methane mitigation. To this end, we expect to see millions to possibly billions in funds announced at COP28 to support methane mitigation in the waste, agriculture, and energy sectors. We also expect to see new commitments from key countries — and have already seen one such development as China released its long-awaited methane action plan and then reinforced those commitments in bilateral climate discussions with the U.S. 

COP28 will shine a bright spotlight on the oil and gas sector, its greenhouse gas emissions, and its future in our energy system. The summit provides an opportunity to initiate actions that can help move the industry toward becoming part of the solution. In this vein, oil and gas sector emissions could be in the spotlight as the United Arab Emirates engages international and national oil and gas companies to take a strong stance on reducing methane emissions, eliminating flaring, and the longer-term transition toward a decarbonized energy system.    

Overall success at COP28, however, will require that the ambition around initiatives being discussed in Dubai be amplified and the clarity and transparency around them prioritized to ensure that there is not only a pathway to deep emissions reductions but also the public confidence that these actions are real and verifiable. 

Here’s how CATF will evaluate the initiatives coming out of COP28: 

  1. Any decarbonization initiative for the oil and gas sector must include strong National Oil Company (NOC) participation. Most of the world’s oil and gas production and consumption is from outside the OECD, and that share will only grow in the future. In addition, most of the world’s NOC production by volume comes from middle and low-income countries. These countries will need a realistic pathway forward to change their systems as they grow economically, and that hasn’t been part of the conversation yet. The initiatives on decarbonization must recognize this and move beyond the typical International Oil Companies (IOCs) that have already announced actions to engage and empower action by NOCs around the world.    
  1. Methane and flaring reduction must be a distinct and specific element of the initiative’s commitment. This should include a firm commitment from signatories to at least a 0.2% upstream methane intensity target by 2030, zero routine flaring by 2030, and annual reporting on progress toward the objectives.   
  1. Transparency of data and data reporting needs to be integral. OGMP 2.0 is the gold standard for company-level methane emissions reporting and the initiative should seek to achieve that level of clarity and confidence.   
  1. There must be a structure for the initiative that can live on past COP28 that includes both company, country, and civil society representation. This is imperative to ensure follow-through on commitments, including annual reporting on progress.   

Methane mitigation is critical to meeting our climate goals, and the oil and gas industry has the opportunity to be a part of the solution. COP28 offers a chance for real change, but it’s crucial that our initiatives are both ambitious and transparent, ensuring lasting progress beyond the conference. 

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