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DUBAI: A year after the launch of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) in 2021 to voluntarily reduce methane emissions worldwide, the total has actually risen 1.8 percent. China’s emissions, particularly from coal mining, accounted for 39 percent of the rise.

Achieving the GMP goal of cutting man-made methane emissions at least 30 percent by 2030 from 2020 levels is the fastest way to reduce near-term warming and is essential to keep a 1.5°C temperature limit within reach according to the launch partners U.S. and European Union.

The most recent assessment by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests annual global methane emissions are approximately 580 million tonnes. This includes 40 percent from natural sources and 60 percent from anthropogenic or human emissions.

In 2022, fossil fuel operations emitted around 120 million tonnes with coal, oil and natural gas responsible for close to 40 million each.

According to a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), governments provided a record US$1.7 trillion in public money to support fossil fuels in that year.

At the same time global investment in renewable power generation by both public and private sources was US$486 billion - only half the amount invested in fossil fuels in the same period, said the IISD think tank.

Based on current forecasts, methane emissions could rise 13 percent between 2020 and 2030, said the IEA. However, limiting global warming to 1.5˚C would see levels fall 30 to 60 percent over the period.

The fossil energy sector is acknowledged to have the largest, fastest, and cheapest methane reduction potential to avoid 80 million tonnes of methane emissions by 2030.

Both the IEA and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) have noted even deep cuts in fossil energy production and use will not limit warming to 1.5°C without immediate additional action to cut methane emissions from fossil fuels.

At the COP28 meeting the 155 GMP pledge countries announced new steps to voluntarily reduce methane emissions including US$1 billion in new grant funding since last year and national commitments on waste, food and agriculture.

° The United States said its new global framework of measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification (MMRV) of methane from oil and gas operations will reduce 1.5 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

° The European Union adopted its first-ever methane regulations, setting ambitious monitoring and abatement criteria for domestically produced and imported fossil oil, gas, and coal, including establishing a methane import standard by 2030.

° Canada announced new regulations to reduce methane emissions in the upstream oil and gas sector by at least 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030.

° Brazil said its National Council of Energy Policy will establish guidelines on methane reduction in the oil and gas sector by the end of 2024.

° Egypt wants to develop internal methane regulations in its oil and gas sector by the end of 2024.

° Nigeria estimated it will capture over half of all gas flaring volumes in Nigeria and said it is committed to ensure robust enforcement of its oil and gas methane guidelines launched at COP27.

° Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Angola, Kenya and Romania joined the GMP as Kazakhstan announced it would work with the U.S. to develop national standards to eliminate non-emergency venting of methane and require leak detection and repair in the oil and gas sector “as soon as possible” before 2030.

Oil Change International (OCI) noted the U.S. MMRV could help provide cover for the ‘Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter’ (OGDC), announced by Sultan Al-Jaber at the opening of COP 28.

The OGDC is a voluntary pledge signed by 50 oil and gas firms, including ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco. The companies represent about 40 percent of global oil output, and commit to cut operational methane emissions to nearly zero by 2030 and eliminate all operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

OCI said the commitments aren’t legally binding and only apply to a company’s upstream GHG emissions from the production of oil and gas (Scope 1 and 2), and exclude the downstream emissions from burning it (Scope 3) –approximately 85 percent of the total.

More than 320 organizations have signed an open letter rejecting the voluntary-based OGDC and called for companies and countries to make “genuine commitments to reduce production of oil and gas”.

“The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter is a dangerous distraction from the COP28 process. We need legal agreements, not voluntary pledges,” said David Tong, OCI Global Industry Campaign manager. “The science is clear: staying under 1.5ºC global warming requires a full, fast, fair, and funded phase out of fossil fuels, starting now.”

Founded in 2005, OCI is a research, communications, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the ongoing transition to clean energy.

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