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Diving Deeper

Our Work in International Oil and Gas

Related Focus Area: Super Pollutants

When it comes to quickly slowing the rate of global climate change, no other single action can compare to reducing oil and gas methane emissions.

Anthropogenic methane emissions are responsible for more than 25% of Earth’s warming today, and the oil and gas sector is among the largest sources of these emissions globally. The availability of low-cost technology combined with the relatively few companies and countries with O&G production creates an unprecedented opportunity to reduce warming now, and buy the world time to cut CO2 emissions that warm our planet over the longer term.

CATF’s global methane work seeks to significantly slash as well as prevent increases in methane emissions from oil and gas development. In countries where development is likely to begin or expand, CATF aims to ensure that environmental impacts are minimized through the application of modern technologies and practices and the regulatory knowledge developed over the last 20 years. CATF’s works in areas where we believe significant progress can be made in preventing and reducing emissions: Canada, Mexico, China and South America. In addition, CATF is working with the Arctic Council, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and other international bodies to make methane emission reductions a focus of their work.

The International Energy Agency recently reported that a 50% reduction in O&G methane emissions is possible by deploying existing negative- and zero-cost measures to reduce O&G methane emissions. This would result in the same climate impact by 2100 as closing all existing coal-fired power plants in China. Furthermore, according to IEA, a 75% reduction (the goal Mexico has adopted with its recently proposed regulations) is technically feasible.

Despite this, most countries still do not directly mandate or control the emissions of methane from oil and gas. Where they exist, regulations are typically for traditional air pollutants like volatile organic compounds, or for flaring, but seldom do they directly address methane emissions. While some policies help reduce methane emissions, they don’t attack the problem in the systematic way necessary, nor do they come anywhere near the potential for even the economic methane abatement let alone the full potential abatement.

But things are changing. In June of 2016, the leaders of North America joined together to set a goal, backed by regulations, of reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45%. Canada has followed this commitment up with strong regulations to cut emissions finalized in 2018. Mexico will finalize shortly regulations that will be the strongest in the world, slashing methane emissions by 75%. Other countries are paying attention, and CATF’s work will assist countries that show the most promise, with developing and implementing new policies to control methane emissions. Ensuring that any oil and gas development that happens, adheres to the strictest environmental standards possible, is the goal of CATF’s international methane work.