Global watchdog to track promised cuts to potent greenhouse gas methane

Smoke rises from oil refinery stacks at Philadelphia Energy Solutions plant in Philadelphia
Smoke rises from oil refinery stacks at Philadelphia Energy Solutions plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Makela

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The United Nations and the European Union launched a global watchdog on Sunday to monitor governments' pledged reductions of greenhouse gas methane that have the potential to make a rapid contribution to limiting temperature rises.

Especially in Europe and the United States, where governments plan tighter regulation, the focus has sharpened on methane emissions that have 80 times more planet-warming potency than carbon dioxide but a shorter life in the atmosphere.

"Methane has accounted for roughly 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times," EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said in a statement that coincided with the start of U.N. climate talks in Glasgow.

"Existing systems do not allow us to determine precisely enough where emissions happen across the globe and in what volumes."

Measuring the colourless and odourless gas when it leaks from waste dumps, oil and gas infrastructure and the digestive system of cattle is complex and requires on-the-ground sensors, satellite imagery and software to analyse data.

The new International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) aims to provide credible data to track government progress on meeting methane reduction pledges and to promote best practice. read more

The IMEO will receive no industry funding, but will be able to draw on data provided voluntarily by fossil fuel companies that represent just under a third of oil and gas production and have pledged to cut their methane emissions.

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Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Barbara Lewis

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