IEA reports methane emissions in energy sector close to all-time highs in 2023

IEA reports methane emissions in energy sector close to all-time highs in 2023

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently highlighted a critical issue at the heart of the climate crisis: methane emissions from the energy sector. The IEA reported that despite pledges made by leaders in oil and gas industries to tackle this issue head-on, these damaging greenhouse gas levels persisted at alarmingly high rates in 2023 – teetering dangerously close to record highs. Reuters conveyed this sobering disclosure from IEA which emphasizes not only substantial challenges but also potential breakthroughs awaiting us as we globally strive towards mitigating climate change.

The International Energy Agency’s Global Methane Tracker reveals an unabated, concerning trend of the energy sector—primarily through fossil fuel production and usage, in particular—releasing over 120 million metric tonnes of methane into our atmosphere last year; this marked a slight increase from levels observed in 2022. Since 2019, without interruption according to the tracker data: global warming accelerant, methane—identified as a potent greenhouse gas responsible for approximately one-third of the industrial era’s temperature rises—is continuing its alarming ascent.

Optimism amidst the gloom

The IEA report unveils a deeply troubling finding: large methane plumes, direct consequences of leaky fossil fuel infrastructure, surged significantly—by 50% in 2023 compared to the preceding year.

The IEA report injects a dose of optimism amidst the gloom; new satellite technologies promise enhanced monitoring and transparency of methane emissions. In particular, the launch of a methane-detecting satellite—supported by Alphabet Inc’s Google and the Environmental Defense Fund—presents a significant stride towards more effective identification and mitigation of methane leaks. The European Space Agency, GHGSat, and this satellite are poised to deliver an unparalleled level of detail in methane emission detection; they expect a wider field of view.

The global community, moreover, exhibits a proactive stance towards addressing methane emissions. Nearly 200 countries at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai—only last year—not only renewed their commitment to reduce global methane emissions by no less than 30% before 2030 but also agreed upon an additional initiative: significant reduction of current-day methane discharges.

The need for enhanced transparency

Despite commitments and advancements, the IEA’s report reveals a troubling discrepancy: there is a significant gap between countries’ and companies’ reported emissions—which they submit themselves—and the agency’s estimates. This disparity underlines an urgent need for enhanced transparency in methane emission reporting; it also highlights that current methods may not be stringent enough to hold all responsible parties accountable.

Moving forward, Tim Gould—the IEA’s chief energy economist, and Christophe McGlade—head of energy supply at the IEA, both cautiously express their optimism: advancements in satellite technology, coupled with global commitments to reduce methane emissions, signify a potential turning point in combating climate change. We anticipate that 2024 will serve as a watershed moment for action and transparency regarding methane—an encouraging shift towards mitigating one of the most daunting aspects posed by our current climate crisis.


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