Methane emissions targeted in International Energy Agency report

Rapid cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuel production and use are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).


Developed in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UNEP-convened Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), The Imperative of Cutting Methane from Fossil Fuels report shows that while a drop in fossil fuel demand would cut methane emissions, these reductions in isolation would not occur fast enough to meet the world’s climate goals. Efforts to reduce methane must go together with decarbonisation of energy systems, the report noted.

According to the report, additional targeted actions to tackle methane emissions from fossil fuel production and use – including the removal of routine venting and flaring and repairing leaks – are essential to limit warming to 1.5°C.

The new report finds that rapid cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuels could avoid up to 0.1°C in global temperature rise by mid-century, which is said to be greater than the emissions impact of immediately taking all cars and trucks in the world off the road.

As well as limiting warming, public health, food security and economic benefits could be realised as methane emissions produce ground-level ozone pollution. According to the report, this would prevent nearly one million premature deaths due to ozone exposure, 90 million tonnes of crop losses due to ozone and climate changes, and about 85 billion hours of lost labour due to extreme heat by 2050. This would generate roughly $260bn in direct economic benefits through 2050.


“Reducing methane emissions from the energy sector is one of the best – and most affordable – opportunities to limit global warming in the near term," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “Early actions by governments and industry to drive down methane emissions need to go hand-in-hand with reductions in fossil fuel demand and CO2 emissions. This report sets out the clear case for strong, swift action.

Under current trajectories, total methane emissions from human activities could rise by up to 13 per cent between 2020 and 2030. In a scenario that limits warming to 1.5°C, they need to fall by 30 per cent to 60 per cent over this timeframe. Cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuel operations will likely need to provide around half of this reduction.

Over three-quarters of methane emissions from oil and gas operations and half of emissions from coal can be abated with existing technology and often at low cost.

Around $75bn of investment is required by 2030 to deploy all methane abatement measures in the oil and gas sector in the IEA’s net zero scenario, the report found. This is equivalent to less than two per cent of the income generated by the oil and gas industry in 2022.