Executive Director joins world leaders for launch of Global Methane Pledge

US President Biden and European Commission President von der Leyen lead more than 100 countries in commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol today welcomed the commitment by more than 100 countries worldwide to cut global methane emissions from human activity by 30% by 2030 and highlighted the IEA’s longstanding efforts to push for an end to methane leaks from fossil fuel operations.

Dr Birol joined dozens of world leaders – led by US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – at the launch today of the Global Methane Pledge at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, underscoring that reducing methane emissions is the most impactful way to limit near-term climate change.

“I commend President Biden and President von der Leyen for their leadership on this critical issue and for bringing together over 100 countries to pursue rapid cuts in methane emissions,” said Dr Birol. “The impact of the Global Methane Pledge is potentially huge. We estimate that if the world achieves a 30% cut in methane emissions from human activity by 2030, it would have a similar impact on global warming as switching all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes – the entire global transport sector – over to net zero emissions technologies.”

The energy sector is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, and an IEA report released last month showed that rapid steps to tackle methane emissions from oil, gas and coal operations would have immediate impacts because of the potent effect of methane on global warming and the large scope for cost-effective actions. The report set out practical measures that could achieve a 75% cut in methane emissions from global fossil fuel operations by 2030.

Multiple leaders at the Global Methane Pledge launch, including Colombian President Iván Duque, noted the IEA’s important role in advocating measures to clamp down on methane emissions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his country was the first to commit to meeting the IEA goal of a 75% reduction in energy-related methane emissions by 2030. US Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry, who moderated the event, said the IEA has “played a tremendous role for all of us” and expressed appreciation to Dr Birol for his leadership.

The IEA has been analysing the issue of methane emissions from the energy sector and proposing solutions to address them for around a decade. In 2012, for example, it published recommendations on the importance of methane abatement in the context of the responsible development of shale oil and gas resources. This was followed by additional analysis in key reports published in 2013 and 2015

Methane abatement has been a recurring theme in the IEA’s flagship World Energy Outlook (WEO) series. The 2017 edition provided in-depth analysis of methane emissions from oil and gas, spurring the creation of the Methane Guiding Principles initiative. In 2019, the WEO discussed methane emissions from the coal sector and abatement measures. And WEO-2021 included methane as one of the key near-term priority areas that can close the gap in global emissions reductions to help move the world towards a pathway consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. 

In mid-2019, the IEA launched the first version of the Methane Tracker, an interactive tool that provides country-by-country estimates of oil and gas methane emissions and abatement potentials. Since then, the Tracker has been updated annually, with the most recent update incorporating satellite data and allowing comparison between IEA’s estimates and those from other institutions or research projects.

In 2020, the IEA began a parallel work stream on policy and regulation for controlling methane emissions, with entries from more than 50 jurisdictions now included in the IEA’s global Policies Database. In January 2021, the IEA released the Regulatory Roadmap and Toolkit, a detailed “how to” guide for policy makers and regulators seeking to cut methane emissions.

Methane abatement is fully integrated into the IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap, which was published in May and in which methane emissions from fossil fuel operations fall by 75% to 2030.