Putin sounds the methane alarm, under satellite surveillance and under pressure from the EU


Russian president worried about warming impact of methane emissions, calling for research collaboration but making no political promises

Vladimir Putin warned of the impact of methane gas on global warming and called for cooperation to reduce emissions, in a rare program of climate concern from the Russian president.

Russia is the world’s largest exporter of methane. Recent satellite data revealed that the frequency of methane plumes from two major Russian gas pipelines increased in 2020 despite a drop in gas exports. Gas can leak from infrastructure. It is also burned or deliberately released into the atmosphere when oil and gas companies do not consider it profitable or practical to transport and sell it.

Speaking at the climate summit of US leaders on Thursday, Putin laid out some key facts: “Methane accounts for 20% of anthropogenic emissions. The greenhouse effect of each tonne of methane is 25 to 28 times greater than one tonne of СО2. Experts estimate that if we could halve methane emissions over the next 30 years, global temperatures would drop 0.18 degrees by 2050. “

Putin continued: “In this context, it would be extremely important to develop broad and effective international cooperation in the calculation and monitoring of all polluting emissions into the atmosphere. We urge all interested countries to participate in joint research, invest in climate projects that can have a practical effect, and redouble their efforts to create low-carbon technologies to mitigate the consequences and reduce their impact. ” adapt to climate change. “

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While Putin’s figures match those used recently EU methane strategy documents, a major report under preparation from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is expected to show that faster reductions are achievable and desirable.

The report, produced jointly with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and due for release next month, will estimate that reductions of 45% by 2030 can avert 0.3 ° C of global warming. The fossil fuel sector has the greatest potential for reducing emissions at low cost or for free, he will say.

Analysts were pleasantly surprised by Putin’s rhetoric. “This is a welcome change from the previous position of Russia which categorically denied having a methane problem,” energy analyst Poppy Kalesi told Climate Home News.

But they noted a lack of specific policy proposals from Putin to tackle the problem.

“Russia’s updated climate target last year was not an increase in ambition and fails to target emissions reductions below the level they should achieve under current policies.” , said Ryan Wilson of Climate Analytics. “There has been no indication to date of specific measures that would reflect Putin’s proposal to encourage foreign investment or seek international scientific collaboration.”

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Putin may have felt the pressure from Russia’s biggest gas customer, the EU, and the awareness that new satellite technology leaves nowhere to hide.

According to the state-owned gas company Gazprom, “the Western European market (including Turkey) consumes the bulk of Russian exports”. In 2019, Russia exported nearly 200 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe (including the UK and Turkey).

The EU is consulting on new rules for monitoring, notification, verification, leak detection and remediation in the energy sector. These standards could cover imports as well as gas extracted in the EU.

the The EU consultation document says: “Most of the fossil fuels consumed in the EU are imported and 75 to 90% of the methane emissions associated with these fuels are emitted before reaching EU borders. In principle, obliging non-European entities supplying energy to the EU as well as EU actors would therefore considerably increase the benefits of such legislation, both in terms of improving information on emissions of energy. methane and their mitigation.

European investors and fossil fuel company Shell called the EU to set a methane performance standard to ensure it does not buy fuels from countries with lower standards.

In March, the EU and UNEP created the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) to monitor business emissions using business data, satellite technology and scientific studies.

Clean Air Task Force Director of Methane Jonathan Banks said: “Satellites are now starting to provide us with images and data for parts of the world that we have never really been able to look at – and that will only happen. ‘increase. Transparency will increase dramatically. We are no longer going to depend on what a company or a country says its methane emissions are. In the near future, we will be able to look at satellite data and know for sure what countries’ emissions are coming from their oil and gas sector. It certainly spurs some of Russia’s interest in it, because they see it coming.

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