North American methane leadership

Climate action on methane is crucial way to reduce runaway warming

Brief published: June 2016

National actions to reduce heat-trapping methane in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico from oil and gas operations can eliminate 232 billion cubic feet of methane below projected levels, according to analysts at ICF International. EDF in partnership with Mexico’s Mario Molina Center, and Canada’s Pembina Institute, released a policy brief titled, “North American Climate Leadership: A road map for global action,” based on this new finding.

Now is a timely opportunity for North American collaboration, given the recent 40-45% oil and gas methane reduction goals announced by the US and Canada and the recognition by all three countries of the importance of reducing methane. If Mexico matches the U.S. and Canadian 40-45 percent goal and develops regulations, North America could see a 20-year climate benefit equal to taking about 85 million cars off the road.

ICF’s North American report, commissioned by EDF, summarizes similar analyses ICF conducted in the U.S. (2014), Canada (2015) and Mexico (2015). All analyses found that reducing methane from key sectors in the oil and gas supply chain is cost-effective and environmentally beneficial. Even at today’s historically low gas prices, there are many viable solutions for companies to reduce their emissions. On average, the cost of capturing methane would add just one penny to the current price of gas, based on the cost of solutions and the ability to sell the recovered methane, the main ingredient in natural gas.

Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas. About 25 percent of current warming is due to manmade methane pollution, of which oil and gas is the largest industrial source worldwide.

Research is bringing into focus the importance of reducing both powerful, long- lived climate pollutants like carbon dioxide, and potent, short- lived pollutants such as methane. Both require attention, as long-lived climate pollutants dictate how warm the planet gets, while short-lived climate pollutants determine how fast the warming happens.

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