Study warns that methane mitigation delays threaten 2°C threshold target

4 August 2023 | Muriel Cozier

Every ten-year delay in methane mitigation will result in an additional peak global warming temperature of approximately 0.1°C.

Researchers from Simon Fraser University (SFU), British Columbia, Canada, have warned that increased efforts to reduce methane emissions must be implemented immediately if climate change targets set out in the Paris Agreement are to be met.

In a paper, published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment, researchers argue that every ten-year delay in methane mitigation will result in an additional peak global warming temperature of approximately 0.1°C. Delaying methane mitigation to 2040 or beyond would increase the risk of global warming exceeding the 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This would be the case even if net-zero carbon dioxide emissions were achieved, the researchers say.

The research team used an Earth system model with a coupled methane cycle to examine the impact of immediate versus delayed methane mitigation in meeting the 2°C threshold. As well as the role of feedback in carbon and methane cycles, the researchers considered the long-term climate impacts of delaying or failing to mitigate methane this century, which the team said had not previously been considered.

Kirsten Zickfeld, Distinguished Professor of Climate Science, Director of SFU’s Climate Research Lab said: ‘We emphasise that actions associated with the Global Methane Pledge should not be delayed, because every year of delayed methane mitigation implies further global warming.’

The Global Methane Pledge (GMP) was formally launched in 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow. Supported by more than 30 countries, the GMP commits to a goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

The importance of tackling methane has galvanised the research community, with work to mitigate emissions from various sources, including livestock, receiving attention. In the final week of July 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy (DoE) and the DoE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory released a ‘notice of intent’ announcing a series of funding opportunities to monitor and reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Also supporting the GMP, June saw ASEAN energy operators, governmental agencies and international organisations launch the ASEAN Energy Sector Methane Leadership Programme (MLP). Malaysian energy group Petronas announced the methane abatement flagship project, in collaboration with Japan Organisation for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC), at the Energy Asia 2023 conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The MLP is an 18-month initiative, delivered through workshops, focused on capacity and capability building to strengthen ASEAN energy companies’ plans, targets, and financing options for reducing methane emissions. The project will see Petronas and JOGMEC collaborate on viable solutions towards zero routine flaring, and methane quantification surveys.

Assisting in efforts to measure global methane output, the International Methane Emmissions Observatory (IMEO) was launched in 2021. The IMEO is tasked with helping governments reduce emissions, starting with the energy sector.

Following the launch of the IMEO, the Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) was launched in 2022 at COP27 in Egypt. MARS is a publically available global system capable of connecting methane detection to notification processes. It coordinates remote observations from satellites including those operated by the European, Italian and German space agencies and NASA. Its aim is to identify large emission sources of methane around the world.

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