The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations at the COP28 global climate summit in Dubai on Saturday that will reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by nearly 80 percent. The move followed new rules from the European Union that will limit methane emissions on natural gas imports starting in 2030.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 81 times more effective at warming the planet than carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis over a 20-year period, and is responsible for between one third to nearly half of all global warming since the start of the industrial revolution.
The new regulations by the U.S., the world’s largest oil and gas producer, and the European Union, the largest importer of natural gas, came as oil and gas producers announced new pledges to curb methane emissions. However, climate advocates say it’s time to move beyond voluntary measures to a binding international agreement to reduce emissions.
Fifty oil and natural gas producers signed an agreement known as the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter (OGDC) to curb methane emissions to near-zero by 2030 in an effort announced by the U.N. climate summit’s president, Sultan al-Jaber of the United Arab Emirates, on Saturday. The agreement represents over 40 percent of global oil production and includes Saudi Aramco, BP, ExxonMobil and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, where al-Jaber is the chief executive.
The agreement was buttressed by a $40 million commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide independent monitoring and verification of OGDC members’ emission reductions.
Meanwhile, the number of countries that have signed the global methane pledge—a voluntary agreement to curb methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030—continues to grow and now includes more than 150 nations. China, the world’s largest methane emitter, has not signed the agreement but pledged to work with the U.S. and others to curb emissions of methane and other non-CO2 greenhouse gases.
Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a climate advocacy organization based in Washington, pushed for mandatory action..
“We can’t catch up to solve the climate problem without realizing that voluntary measures are now unbelievably naive,” Zaelke said, noting that past pledges from the oil and gas industry have failed to curb methane emissions. “We’ve got to toughen up and demand mandatory measures starting with the fossil fuel industry.”
Even where regulations exist, there must also be strong enforcement, environmental advocates said.
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Earthworks, an environmental organization that uses thermal cameras to reveal emissions of methane and other pollutants that threaten the health of communities living near oil and gas developments, praised the new U.S. methane regulations. However, the organization noted that the long anticipated rules are “just words on paper” without effective implementation and aggressive enforcement.
Detecting releases of methane may soon get easier. A new generation of satellites will “revolutionize” real time emissions monitoring and provide “radical transparency” of methane emissions from the energy, agriculture and waste sectors, according to a report the U.N. Environment Programme published Friday.
While stopping short of calling for a mandatory emissions reduction agreement, the International Chamber of Commerce recently called for a strengthening of the Global Methane Pledge, including “clear policy signals from governments” and “strong accountability measures.”
Speaking at COP28 in Dubai, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley echoed the concerns of environmental advocates and called for a binding emissions reduction agreement.
“Unless there is a global methane agreement that is compulsory, we’re not going to get where we need to go,” Mottley said, noting that some large companies including Chevron, have not joined the voluntary, industry-led OGDC effort. “The science is clear, clear, clear. If you want to be able to turn down the heat, you’ve got to control methane.”