Oil and Gas Methane Mitigation: An opportunity for increasing NDC ambition

Welcome to 2020: a pivotal year for countries to substantially ratchet up their ambition under the Paris Agreement. Under the “ratchet mechanism” (illustrated below) countries are expected to submit new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that represent a progression compared to the commitments they made in 2015.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, a dramatic strengthening of NDCs representing 3 to 5 times more effort than what has already been put forward is needed this year to close the 2030 ambition gap and get on a viable pathway to realize the 2050 goals.[1] The way that countries respond to the directive to update their NDCs will offer an early test of the Paris Agreement and the ability of the international community to work together with urgency and resolve to keep the global temperature increase to “well below 2C”.

Commitments to raising ambition can take various forms, but ultimately, an NDC should reflect a country’s highest possible ambition across every sector of the economy. In addition to adopting more stringent emission reduction targets, NDCs that are not already economy-wide should expand to include new sectors and gases.

For many countries, one of the “easiest” ways of taking on higher ambition is through reducing methane emissions from oil and gas (O&G) operations. Even though O&G methane accounts for some of the lowest cost mitigation measures, it is generally still an untapped source of emission reductions. In fact, most NDCs do not specifically contemplate mitigation actions in this sector. The International Energy Agency estimates that 75% of O&G methane emissions globally could be reduced with existing technology, including 45% at no net cost!

CCAP (with its partner, the Clean Air Task Force) has been working with a number of developing countries to support commitments and actions to reduce O&G methane. This includes supporting countries to develop and implement ambitious regulations to limit O&G methane emissions, and in 2019, encouraging countries to join the Global Methane Alliance (GMA) –an initiative spearheaded by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Program- and adopt its ambitious goals. The GMA calls on countries to pledge emissions reductions of 45% by 2025 and 60-75% by 2030 and include O&G methane in their NDCs. It may sound like a lot, but given its high environmental impact, low costs and economic benefits (let’s not forget that methane itself is the main component of natural gas), leading countries and companies are taking on this challenge.

As part of CCAP’s engagement with the GMA, we have co-organized regional workshops aimed at educating countries about the targets and how they can be achieved, and to invite participation. During our workshop in Abuja last November, we were pleased that Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire became the first two countries to announce their commitment to the GMA pledge.

In the coming year, with more workshops, outreach and technical support, we hope to soon see more countries announce ambitious commitments to climate mitigation in the O&G sector, contributing to new and updated NDCs that are consistent with the effort required to protect the global climate.


[1] UNEP (2019). Emissions Gap Report 2019. Executive summary. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30798/EGR19ESEN.pdf?sequence=13

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