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expert reaction to the International Energy Agency’s methane report

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a report on curtailing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations.


Dr Heather Graven, Reader in Climate Physics at Imperial College London says:

“Tackling methane emissions from fossil fuels is a no-brainer – it has a big impact on climate and it saves money. This report should help to crystallise actions to detect and fix methane leaks. A better understanding of where and how the leaks are occurring is also needed. For example, our atmospheric measurements indicate there is more methane coming from natural gas leaks in London than previously thought.”


Dr Robin Lamboll, Research Associate in Climate Science and Policy at Imperial College London, said:

“A large fraction of oil and gas methane emissions are easily preventable at a low or even negative nominal cost, yet still aren’t actually done. Reports like this indicate it is in fossil fuel companies’ interests to do the right thing, however this begs the question of why these solutions aren’t already implemented. A lot of the report revolves around patting emitters on the head for fixing leaks and encouraging voluntary action rather than taxing harmful and unnecessary methane emissions. With increased satellite and remote detection capabilities we should be looking towards less carrot and more stick.

“The report makes significant use of the IEA’s own scenarios in evaluating how difficult it will be to reduce methane emissions through total reductions in fossil fuel analysis rather than filling leaks. Their scenarios historically underappreciated the growth of renewable energy and therefore exaggerated the difficulty of making this transition, although the more recent net zero scenario has made improvements in this.”


Dr Joeri Rogelj, Director of Research, Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment, Grantham Institute – Imperial College London, said:

“Eliminating methane emissions from fossil fuel operations is a no-brainer. They can strongly limit the rate of global warming over the next decades and are in many cases saving money.

“The 75% cut over the next decade suggested by the IEA is well in line with the reductions found in 1.5°C pathways assessed in the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report. Also in those scenarios, methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector are reduced rapidly over the next decade. Cuts in agricultural methane emissions from rice, meat or dairy production are also important, but are harder to achieve.”


Prof Euan Nisbet, Greenhouse Gas Group, Royal Holloway, said:

Methane leaks from the fossil fuel industry are a major driver of climate change, but the IEA points out, ‘The world is not yet on track to deliver deep cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuel operations’.  

“So much more can be done, cheaply and quickly. Methane is the Cinderella gas, neglected, yet the science of finding leaks and vents is much better now than even a few years ago.  Action on methane leaks is neither hard nor costly. It will do much to mitigate climate warming.  So much more can be done – it needs attention.”


Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management and director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh

“Tackling climate change is invariably focussed on curtailing fossil fuel burning, but a wodge of the emissions from coal, oil and gas actually occur long before they reach the power station, petrol pump or cook stove. These co-called ‘fugitive’ emissions – arising from leaks and venting of the powerful greenhouse gas methane – represent a wasteful and highly-damaging part of global energy supplies. Plugging the leaks and capturing fugitive methane would put a major dent in global emissions, produce rapid benefits in terms of reduced warming and improved air quality, and in many cases can be done at low, zero, or even negative net cost.

“There are many hard choices to made if the world is to deliver on the Paris Climate Goals, but putting an end to fugitive methane emissions is an easy one: do it.”



Pathways to a 75% Cut in Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuel Operations by 2030’ was published by the IEA at 6am UK time on Thursday 7 October 2021.



Declared interests

Prof Dave Reay: “No competing interests declared.”

None others received.

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