Feb 23, 2022 - Energy & Environment

IEA: Countries spew more methane than they report

IEA methane emissions estimates compared to country-level reports
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The International Energy Agency is sounding the alarm that annual energy sector methane emissions are much higher than nations are reporting to the United Nations climate body.

Why it matters: Methane is a very powerful planet-warming gas and the energy system is a key source, accounting for about 40% of human-induced methane, per IEA.

  • But data discrepancies complicate the emissions-cutting needed, IEA warns in a new report.
  • "A vital part of those efforts is transparency on the size and location of the emissions, which is why the massive underreporting revealed by our Global Methane Tracker is so alarming," IEA head Fatih Birol said.

Driving the news: IEA said its country-by-country estimates — improved thanks to better satellite coverage and other analyses — show combined emissions around 70% (!) higher than what governments officially report.

  • Many submissions to the U.N. are out of date, and even the newer ones have accuracy problems, IEA said.

Threat level: "A thorough picture of methane emissions is a prerequisite to design policy tools that can drive deeper cuts in emissions in an efficient manner," it said.

What we're watching: Whether nations take tangible steps to make good on the Global Methane Pledge that now includes over 100 countries.

  • Signatories pledge to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030. But it's nonbinding, and several of the biggest emitters — including China and Russia — haven't joined.
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