IMEO (International Methane Emissions Observatory)
November 03, 2021: In the first 20 years of reaching the atmosphere, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Reducing emissions of this extremely potent gas is, therefore, one of the fastest ways of slowing the rate of global warming, at least in the short term – and at COP26, more than 100 countries have just signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to limit emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels. 1)
Figure 1: With both public and commercial satellite data playing key roles in assessing progress on climate action, ESA and GHGSat are supporting the United Nations Environment Programme's new International Methane Emissions Observatory, announced at COP26 in Glasgow, UK. — Delegates present, left to right: Patricia Fuller, Canadian Ambassador for Climate Change, The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Stephane Germain, President and CEO of GHGSat, Hubert Bolduc, President, Investissement Québec International, Simonetta Cheli, ESA Earth Observation Programmes Head of Strategy, Programme & Coordination Office, Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA Acting Director of Earth Observations Programmes (image credit: Philippe Lapointe, Conseiller aux communications, FTQ Construction)
With both public and commercial satellite data playing key roles in assessing progress on climate action, ESA and GHGSat are supporting the United Nations Environment Programme's new International Methane Emissions Observatory, also announced at COP26.
Launched at the recent G20 Rome meeting (October 30-31, Rome, Italy), the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), will provide authoritative support to governments as they work to achieve their emissions reduction targets. IMEO's first annual report – An Eye on Methane – highlights the importance of having both public and private Earth observation measurements as part of their data ecosystem.
ESA's Acting Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Toni Tolker-Nielsen, commented, "ESA marks the launch of UNEP's first annual report and commits to continued provision of regular global greenhouse-gas concentration measurements for global transparency. GHGSat's contribution of data to the IMEO is an important milestone as the first commercial contribution to the IMEO, a welcome step forward for getting best value from public and private Earth observation satellites."
UNEP's lead on methane emission, Manfredi Caltagirone, commented, "The integration of satellite data such as from the ESA-operated Copernicus Sentinel-5P and GHGSat, with company reports and scientific studies will better target mitigation actions at the scale and speed required to meet the 1.5° target.
"Reducing methane emissions from fossil fuel production is essential to avoiding the worst effects of climate change and we thank the Canadian Government for providing access to GHGSat data. IMEO looks forward to engaging with the Canadian Government as well as oil and gas companies in the future."
The new initiative builds on the success of long-term and evolving data-sharing partnership between ESA and GHGSat, through the Canada–ESA Cooperation Agreement. Having proved the concept of high-resolution emissions monitoring from space, GHGSat launched its commercial constellation in 2019, rapidly building its capability and data archive.
A Memorandum of Intent, between ESA, the Canadian Space Agency and GHGSat was signed that same year, with the aim of stimulating scientific uptake of this unique dataset.
Figure 2: GHGSat is a leader in high-resolution greenhouse gas monitoring from space, providing actionable emission data to businesses, governments, and regulators worldwide. With proprietary remote-sensing capabilities and patented technology, GHGSat can monitor individual facilities, offering greater data accuracy, and facilitating timely strategic decision-making insights. The GHGSat archive and data from the joint ESA, CSA, GHGSat initiative can be accessed on ESA's Earth Online website.
GHGSat CEO, Stephane Germain said, "We are glad to be ready today with Earth observation data that contributes to our collective understanding of industrial methane emissions. We believe this data will provide unique insights to help with the IMEO's important work. We look forward to continued collaboration with ESA and deeper collaboration with IMEO to integrate public and private data to support emissions mitigation."
Figure 3: Methane from opencast coal mine in Kazakhstan measured by GHGSat. With both public and commercial satellite data playing key roles in assessing progress on climate action, ESA and GHGSat are supporting the United Nations Environment Programme's new International Methane Emissions Observatory. Copernicus Sentinel-5P's high revisit rate combined with GHGSat's high-resolution commercial imagery can give landfill operators and regulators the information they need to reduce methane emissions from landfill sites, for example. Both missions support the new International Methane Emissions Observatory. This image shows methane from an opencast coal mine in Kazakhstan on 20 October 2021, measured by GHGSat.
President of the Canadian Space Agency, Lisa Campbell, noted, "GHGSat's early efforts to build a previously unimagined commercial capability have come together at a time when urgent climate action is essential. GHGSat's contribution of Canadian commercial data and know-how to IMEO builds on the achievement of scientific and operational collaboration."
Also, emphasising the need to work together to mitigate the effects of climate change, a report by the Group on Earth Observations, the Climate TRACE consortium, and the World Geospatial Industry Council was launched today at COP26. The Greenhouse Gas Monitoring from Space: A mapping of capabilities across public, private and hybrid satellite missions report and the database that underpins it is the first joint systematic effort by Earth observation data providers from the public and private sectors to map the current and upcoming satellite missions that monitor greenhouse gases. Both Copernicus Sentinel-5P and GHGSat feature in the report.
Figure 4: Averaged methane concentrations over Buenos Aires observed by Copernicus Sentinel-5P. One year averaged methane concentrations over Buenos Aires observed by the Tropomi instrument on Copernicus Sentinel-5P. The black square denotes the location for GHGSat to target. Tropomi data are analysed by SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research to guide GHGSat and other high-resolution instruments towards large methane emitters (image credit: ESA, the image contains Copernicus Sentinel data (2019–1920), processed by SRON)
GHGSat is a leader in high-resolution greenhouse gas monitoring from space, providing actionable emission data to businesses, governments, and regulators worldwide. With proprietary remote-sensing capabilities and patented technology, GHGSat can monitor individual facilities, offering greater data accuracy, and facilitating timely strategic decision-making insights. The GHGSat archive and data from the joint ESA, CSA, GHGSat initiative can be accessed on ESA's Earth Online website.
Copernicus Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. The satellite carries the state-of-the-art Tropomi instrument to map a multitude of trace gases, which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health and our climate.
Figure 5: Sentinel-5 Precursor is the forerunner of Sentinel-5 to provide timely data on a multitude of trace gases and aerosols affecting air quality and climate. These data will be used for air-quality monitoring services through Europe's Copernicus programme. Sentinel-5 Precursor carries an imaging spectrometer called Tropomi (image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
• October 31, 2021: To support further progress on fulfilling the Paris Agreement, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with support from the European Union launched today a new Observatory to drive global action on reducing methane emissions. 2)
- The International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) was launched at the G20 Summit, on the eve of the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow. IMEO will bring global reporting on methane emissions to an entirely different level, ensuring public transparency on anthropogenic methane emissions. IMEO will initially focus on methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector, and then expand to other major emitting sectors like agriculture and waste.
- Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for at least a quarter of the current global warming. The recently published UNEP-Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Global Methane Assessment states that zero or low net-cost reductions could almost halve anthropogenic methane emissions, while proven measures could cut 0.28º Celsius from the forecasted rise in the planet's average temperature by 2050.
- IMEO will provide the means to prioritise actions and monitor commitments made by state actors in the Global Methane Pledge – a US and EU-led effort by over thirty countries to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
- President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "Methane is one of the most dangerous gases for our climate. We urgently need to reduce methane emissions to keep our climate targets in reach. Better satellite monitoring is essential and the EU is proud to support the creation of the International Methane Emissions Observatory."
Methane: over 80 times more potent than CO2
- To stay on track for the Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate change to 1.5°C, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that if the world is to achieve the 1.5°C temperature target, deep methane emissions reductions must be achieved over the next decade.
- "As highlighted by the IPCC, if the world is serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change, we need to cut methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry. But this is not a get-out-of-jail free card: methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonize the energy system to limit warming to 1.5°C, as called for in the Paris Agreement," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
- Methane released directly into the atmosphere is more than 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time horizon. However, as methane's atmospheric lifespan is relatively short – 10 to 12 years – actions to cut methane emissions can yield the most immediate reduction in the rate of warming, while also delivering air quality benefits.
- EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: "Methane has accounted for roughly 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times, and today its emissions are increasing faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s. Existing systems do not allow us to determine precisely enough where these emissions happen across the globe and in what volumes. Once better data is available, countries can take swift and well-targeted action. In the EU, we will already propose pioneering legislation to cut methane emissions this year. This includes mandatory leak detection and repair and limiting venting and flaring."
- The fossil fuel industry is responsible for one-third of anthropogenic emissions and is the sector with the highest potential for reductions. The wasted methane, the main component in natural gas, is a valuable source of energy that could be used to fuel power plants or homes.
IMEO: an independent and trusted global entity
- The Observatory will produce a global public dataset of empirically verified methane emissions – starting with the fossil fuel sector – at an increasing level of granularity and accuracy by integrating data principally from four streams: reporting from the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0), oil and gas companies, direct measurement data from scientific studies, remote sensing data, and national inventories. This will allow IMEO to engage companies and governments around the world to utilize this data to target strategic mitigation actions and support science-based policy options.
- Critical to this effort are data collected through OGMP 2.0 launched in November 2020 in the framework of the CCAC. OGMP 2.0, launched in November 2020 in the framework of the CCAC, is the only comprehensive, measurement-based reporting framework for the oil and gas sector, and its 74 member companies represent many of the world's largest operators across the entire value chain, and account for over 30% of all oil and gas production.
IMEO: First Annual Report
- In a report released to coincide with the launch, IMEO laid out its Theory of Change. At the heart of this theory is the need for an independent and trusted entity to integrate these multiple sources of heterogeneous data into a coherent and policy relevant dataset. The report also includes the analysis of the first reports submitted by the company members of the OGMP 2.0. During this first year, most companies put significant efforts into reporting and outlined ambitious 2025 reduction targets. Out of the 55 companies that set targets, 30 meet or exceed the recommended targets of 45% reduction or near-zero methane intensity, and 51 have submitted plans to improve the accuracy of their data over the next 3-5 years.
- Hosted by UNEP, IMEO's budget amounts to €100 million over five years. To maintain its independence and credibility, it will receive no industry funding. Instead, IMEO will be entirely funded by governments and philanthropies, with core resources provided by the European Commission as a founding member.
• October 19, 2021: Global commitment to reduce methane emissions gathered pace this week as 20 leading philanthropic organizations committed $223 million to drastically reduce methane emissions globally and to support of the Global Methane Pledge spearheaded by the United States (U.S.) and European Union (E.U.). 3)
Figure 6: Preventing methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure is a readily available option to reduce methane emissions (image credit: CCAC)
- 24 more countries announced that they would sign onto the pledge, bringing the total number of countries committed to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030 to 32. More are expected to join by COP26 in a couple weeks' time.
- The announcements were made during a virtual ministerial hosted by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and European Commission Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans. They were joined by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Richard Morris, Founder and Director of the High Tide Foundation, who represented the 20 philanthropies at the meeting.
- Mr. Kerry thanked philanthropies for the financial commitment to methane reductions saying the funds would empower governments that support the pledge to be able to implement the measures, systems, and programs that are needed to scale up methane solutions. He called on more governments to sign on.
- "We're all very eager to roll up our sleeves and begin to work," Mr. Kerry said. "By COP26 when we launch the Global Methane Pledge, we look forward to welcoming all governments that are ready to tackle methane as the single fastest strategy that we have to keep a safer 1.5º Celsius future within reach."
- Mr. Morris said that he was honored to speak on behalf of donors saying philanthropy has a vital role to play in climate change. He noted that citizens and leaders worldwide have paid greater attention to the fact that methane is the fastest down payment on containing climate change. He said the funds raised so far aimed to "jump start the implementation of the Global methane Pledge and support government efforts".
- "As we work in the donor community to secure even more funding for methane reductions, we are committed to deploying the capital nimbly and entrepreneurially to generate the most catalytic change in the shortest period of time," Mr. Morris said.
- "On behalf of the community of methane donors, I would like to thank the leaders of the countries who have signed the Global Methane Pledge for inspiring us to dream big in addressing climate change. I hope in 2030 we can look back at today's event with pride that the world came together to take concrete action on methane leaks to ensure a just and sustainable future for all."
- Mr. Timmermans said that while countries have different starting points and different local situations, they could all reduce their methane emissions substantially to generate a major global impact. Mr Timmermans said an important first step was to plug the global data gap on methane emissions.
- "We need to step up monitoring and emissions measurement, reporting and verification," he said. "The EU supports UNEP in establishing an independent International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO). It will be a key element in delivering on the Global Methane Pledge."
- UNEP's Executive Director, Inger Andersen, said methane mitigation is the stand-out option for achieving near and long-term benefits and that current emissions must be reduced considerably to ensure the world stays on a 1.5ºC pathway. She reminded participants that staying on that path also means increased efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2).
- "Let me be clear, this is not a get out of jail free card. It is important that we also swiftly decarbonize our energy system. Action on methane should be viewed as complementary in the short-term to global efforts to reduce CO2, so that we can achieve the 1.5ºC goal," Ms. Andersen said.
- "The Global Methane Assessment that we carried out under the banner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) highlights some concrete ways to change the climate trajectory within the next 20 years. That is a critical timeframe for slowing warming and for slowing self-reinforcing feedbacks."
- Ms. Andersen said UNEP was proud to host the CCAC's Secretariat and the soon to be launched IMEO. She said she looked forward to collaborating with partners on the IMEO to create a comprehensive public dataset to address the methane challenge.
• September 18, 2021: The European Union and the United States announced today the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce global methane emissions to be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November in Glasgow. President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged countries at the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) to join the Pledge and welcomed those that have already signaled their support. 4)
- Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era. Rapidly reducing methane emissions is complementary to action on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and is regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5º Celsius within reach.
- Countries joining the Global Methane Pledge commit to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030 and moving towards using best available inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources. Delivering on the Pledge would reduce warming by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Countries have widely varying methane emissions profiles and reduction potential, but all can contribute to achieving the collective global goal through additional domestic methane reduction and international cooperative actions. Major sources of methane emissions include oil and gas, coal, agriculture, and landfills. These sectors have different starting points and varying potential for short-term methane abatement with the greatest potential for targeted mitigation by 2030 in the energy sector.
- Methane abatement delivers additional important benefits, including improved public health and agricultural productivity. According to the Global Methane Assessment from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), achieving the 2030 goal can prevent over 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits, and over 20 million tons of crop losses a year by 2030 by reducing ground-level ozone pollution caused in part by methane.
- The European Union and eight countries have already indicated their support for the Global Methane Pledge. These countries include six of the top 15 methane emitters globally and together account for over one-fifth of global methane emissions and nearly half of the global economy.
- The European Union has been taking steps to reduce its methane emissions for almost three decades. The European Commission strategy adopted in 1996 helped reduce methane emissions from landfilling by almost a half. Under the European Green Deal, and to support the European Union's commitment to climate neutrality by 2050, the European Union adopted in October 2020 a strategy to reduce methane emissions in all key sectors covering energy, agriculture and waste. The reduction of methane emissions in the current decade is an important part of the European Union's ambition for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This year, the European Commission will propose legislation to measure, report and verify methane emission, put limits on venting and flaring, and impose requirements to detect leaks, and repair them. The European Commission is also working to accelerate the uptake of mitigation technologies through the wider deployment of ‘carbon farming' in European Union Member States and through their Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plans, and to promote biomethane production from agricultural waste and residues. Finally, the European Commission is supporting the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in establishing an independent International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) to address the global data gap and transparency in this area, including through a financial contribution. IMEO will play an important role in creating a sound scientific basis for methane emissions calculations and delivering the Global Methane Pledge in this regard.
- The United States is pursuing significant methane reductions on multiple fronts. In response to an Executive Order that President Biden issued on the first day of his Presidency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promulgating new regulations to curtail methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. In parallel, the EPA has taken steps to implement stronger pollution standards for landfills and the Department of Transportation's Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration is continuing to take steps that will reduce methane leakage from pipelines and related facilities. At the President's urging and in partnership with US farmers and ranchers, the US Department of Agriculture is working to significantly expand the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices that will reduce methane emissions from key agriculture sources by incentivizing the deployment of improved manure management systems, anaerobic digesters, new livestock feeds, composting and other practices. The US Congress is considering supplemental funding that would support many of these efforts. Among the proposals before the Congress, for example, is a major initiative to plug and remediate orphaned and abandoned oil, gas, and coal wells and mines, which would significantly reduce methane emissions. In addition, the United States continues to support collaborative international methane mitigation efforts, especially through its leadership of the Global Methane Initiative and CCAC.
- The European Union and eight countries have already indicated their support for the Global Methane Pledge: — The countries are: Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, and the United States.
- The United States, the European Union and other early supporters will continue to enlist additional countries to join the Global Methane Pledge pending its formal launch at COP 26.
• On March 2, 2021, the UNEP (UN Environmental Programme) officially announced the creation of the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO). UNEP, in collaboration with the European Commission, launched IMEO to engage with governments and companies around the world to accelerate reductions of methane emissions globally. 5)
- Reducing methane emissions from the energy sector is one of the quickest, most feasible, and most cost-effective ways to limit the impacts of climate warming. If the world is to achieve the 1.5°C global temperature target of the Paris Agreement, dramatic reductions of methane emissions must be achieved by 2030.
- However, there is a lack of data and information on where and how much methane is emitted. Emissions figures today are largely based on engineering calculations and can vary significantly depending on who is reporting it and what methodology is used. There is enough information to act now, but to addressing emissions on the scale and in the timeframe necessary to meet the 1.5°C target will require a deeper understanding of methane emissions.
The IMEO will work on three connected priorities:
- IMEO will collect company data through reporting to the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP), the gold standard methane reporting framework developed by UNEP, the European Commission, Environmental Defense Fund, and leading oil and gas companies in the framework of the CCAC. From day one, OGMP member company assets represent a third of global oil and gas production on five continents – and membership is expected to grow apace. The European Union in its methane strategy recognized the OGMP as "the best existing vehicle for improving measurement, reporting and verification capability in the energy sector".
- Aggregating company reporting, satellite data, and measurements from scientific studies – many of which will be sponsored by IMEO – will create the best picture to date of global methane emissions levels and sources. With this global database, IMEO will verify both company and country reporting and catalyze mitigation action around the world.
- IMEO will commission studies that measure methane emissions from the coal, oil, and gas value chains globally, providing accurate publicly available data and improved methods for measurement. This data will allow governments, industry, and other stakeholders to prioritize policies and actions to reduce emissions of methane. IMEO will also build a community of scientists in developing countries, building global expertise and capacity on methane measurements.
- IMEO will work with countries to deepen the understanding of the importance of methane emissions management to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Recognizing the important role that countries must play in the methane ecosystem, IMEO will act as the interface through which countries can access and interpret this data in order to build government capacity to address methane emissions by pursuing science-based policy options.
- UNEP is encouraging broad participation of international community in advancing IMEO objectives. The G20 Presidency recognized the short-term climate potential of methane mitigation and has included methane as a key topic of the Energy Transition and Climate Protection working group. As the premier forum for international economic cooperation, the G20 could lead the world on a critical climate issue with cost-effective solutions. The global influence wielded by the G20 could drive ambitious action by companies and countries.
1) "ESA and GHGSat support new International Methane Emissions Observatory," ESA Applications. 03 November 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/
2) "International Methane Emissions Observatory launched to boost action on powerful climate-warming gas," EC Press Release, 31 October 2021, URL: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_5636
3) "Philanthropies commit over $200 million as 24 more countries join the Global Methane Pledge," CCAC (Climate and Clean Air Coalition) secretariat, 19 October 2021, URL: https://www.ccacoalition.org/en/news/
4) "Joint EU-US Press Release on the Global Methane Pledge," EC, 18 September 2021, URL: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_4785
5) "International Methane Emissions Observatory: a new step in limiting global GHG emissions," FSR(Florence School of Regulation) /EUI, 2 March 2021, URL: https://fsr.eui.eu/
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).