Looking ahead to COP27—from climate pledges to action
The Global Methane Pledge—opportunities and risks
The global energy transition is happening, but too slowly to limit climate change to acceptable levels, for diverse reasons. Carbon emissions policies and measures focus too little on absolute emission targets and too much on relative measures such as carbon intensity. Focus is needed on early emission reduction actions, while current efforts aim to for carbon neutrality at a distant date. High-profile listed companies disposing of high-carbon-emitting assets to unlisted organizations (‘hand-me-down assets’) is reducing transparency on emissions and emissions-reducing investments. Measuring emissions using satellite remote-sensing technologies can reduce reliance on self-reporting and should thus be a public good not subject to corporate confidentiality or other commercial restrictions. More integration of existing assets in decarbonization efforts is needed; the largest positive impact on climate and health now would come from having such assets emit less. More recognition is needed that measures suited to developed high-income countries/regions may not work as well in developing low- and middle-income countries.
Cutting methane emissions is the most immediate way to slow the rate of global warming, even as progress is made on decarbonizing energy systems. Any reprieve over the next decade from reaching a global temperature rise—and potential tipping point—of 1.5 °C is vital while more-challenging policy commitments are implemented. Reducing wasteful natural gas flaring would be an immediate way to cut methane emissions. It requires urgent co-ordinated action by oil- and gas-producing countries, donors, multilateral development banks, and countries hosting satellite data companies, with the International Monetary Fund taking a leadership role through its surveillance and capacity development work. Tackling methane emissions is especially significant since it contributes to meeting other development priorities, such as generating government revenue (by penalties and gas sales), improving health (by reducing air pollution), and helping to deliver greater energy access (by using rather than wasting the gas).