Near-record energy sector methane emissions expected to fall: IEA

Fossil fuel emissions from methane, which are more potent than those from carbon dioxide, are projected to decline after increasing last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In 2023, the leading countries for emissions produced about 80 million metric tons in methane emissions from fossil fuel emissions, with the U.S. leading in oil and gas emissions and China leading for emissions from coal, according to the IEA. Overall, the year saw about 120 million metric tons in methane emissions, up slightly from 2022.

At the 2023 COP28 summit in Dubai, participating nations agreed on commitments to cut global methane emissions that, if implemented, would cut overall emissions by close to 25 metric tons by the end of the decade, according to the IEA. The majority of these cuts would come from the oil and gas industry. The companies that signed the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter (OGDC) at the summit are responsible for an estimated 25 percent of global methane emissions from oil and gas.

Overall, however, the IEA projects that methane emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent to avert 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, the internationally agreed-upon threshold to avert catastrophic climate change.

Methane dissipates in the atmosphere faster than carbon emissions but is more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere and is the cause of an estimated 30 percent of temperature increases since the Industrial Revolution.

“A 75 percent cut in methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030 is imperative to stop the planet from warming to a dangerous level. I am encouraged by the momentum we’ve seen in recent months, which our analysis shows could make an enormous and immediate difference in the world’s fight against climate change,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The research comes days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized its latest rules for methane emissions, which it projects could cut up to 58 million tons of methane emissions by 2038. The state of Texas has announced a lawsuit on behalf of the state Railroad Commission, its primary oil and gas regulator. 

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