Oil and gas companies are not doing enough to decrease the release of methane gases, a main source of planet-heating emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a new report released Monday.
In 2020, the fuel industries emitted about 5% of all global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the IEA report said.
The energy sector is the second-largest emitter of methane worldwide, following agriculture, according to the IEA’s Methane Tracker. The agency noted that methane emissions have decreased by 10% in the past year, but added it is mostly because of a decrease in economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IEA estimated that between 2020 and 2030, emissions will need to decrease by more than 70%, reaching levels of around 20 metric tons per year.
Driving down methane emissions would be among some of the most “cost-effective and impactful actions” governments can take to fight climate change, the Paris-based agency said.
“The immediate task now for the oil and gas industry is to make sure that there is no resurgence in methane emissions, even as the world economy recovers, and that 2019 becomes their historical peak,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.
The report listed the lack of information around methane as one of the reasons governments have failed to address emissions. Despite having a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide, methane absorbs much more energy throughout the 12 years it stays in the atmosphere, the report stated.
“Alongside ambitious efforts to decarbonize our economies, early action on methane emissions will be critical for avoiding the worst effects of climate change,” Birol said. “There has never been a greater sense of urgency about this issue than there is today.”
The Russian and American oil and gas industries were by far the largest emitters of methane in 2020, followed by those of Iran, Turkmenistan and Iraq, according to the IEA.