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Japan, the US, the EU, Australia and South Korea are in final talks on the creation of a mechanism for monitoring methane emissions that will bring together some of the world’s largest buyers and producers of liquefied natural gas to combat global warming.
People directly involved in the discussions said the public-private initiative would involve setting up a database of real-time methane pollution data on individual LNG projects, a move backers hope will accelerate the reduction of emissions of the potent global warming gas.
The initiative comes after global fossil fuel industry emissions of methane increased to a near-record in 2022.
This was despite the so-called global methane pledge signed by more than 100 countries at a UN climate summit in 2021. Big emitters including China, Russia and India did not sign the agreement, which was spearheaded by the US and EU. US climate envoy John Kerry, who is in China for climate talks this week, has long pressed Beijing to strengthen its commitment to reducing methane emissions.
The team behind the UN COP28 climate summit in the UAE this year is also making a push for “near-zero” methane emissions in the oil and gas industry by 2030.
Methane is the main component of natural gas and accounts for about 30 per cent of the global temperature rise since the industrial revolution, with the energy industry making up about a third of human-induced methane emissions, second only to agriculture. The emissions result mainly from flaring — the burning of excess gas — and leakage.
Cutting methane emissions is regarded by scientists as among the cheapest and quickest ways to tackle global climate change, as the gas generates more warming than carbon dioxide but is shorter-lived.
The methane database was proposed by Japan, chair of this year’s G7 summit and one of the world’s largest importers of LNG. Tokyo has previously been criticised by climate activists for opposing a global agreement for the phaseout of fossil fuels and for continued funding of new overseas gas projects.
The new initiative — called the “coalition for LNG emission abatement towards net zero” — is set to be announced on Tuesday at an LNG conference in Tokyo co-hosted by the International Energy Agency, the people involved in the discussions said.
Japan’s Jera and South Korea’s Kogas, two of the world’s largest LNG buyers, will ask major producers to provide basic data on emissions such as volume and intensity as well as reduction targets and measures being taken. Participation will be voluntary and the results will be disclosed by the government-backed Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security, known as Jogmec.
There is already a reporting framework for methane pollution led by the UN Environment Programme’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0.
But Japanese officials said the existing database does not provide project-based methane emissions and only company-level total emissions. They said there is also not enough data specific to LNG production and measuring and disclosure methods are too inconsistent.
Tokyo’s effort was backed by the European Commission and the US, where Joe Biden’s administration has proposed fines on methane leaks as a key part of its battle to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and gas industry has objected to the proposed US rules, which would allow private groups to monitor and report leaks.
Japanese officials are counting on pressure from Jera and Kogas to incentivise LNG suppliers to act. Jogmec also hopes to bring companies on board by promoting projects with the lowest methane emission intensity on its website, while selling Japanese technology to detect or reduce methane leaks.
“We need to use LNG for the foreseeable future so the question is how we can use it cleanly,” said an official at Japan’s ministry of economy, trade and industry.