UN announces global high-tech satellite methane detection system
- The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) is a new initiative to scale up global efforts to detect and act on major sources of emissions transparently and accelerate the implementation of the Global Methane Pledge.
- Methane released by human activities is responsible for about 25% of anthropogenic climate change.
- MARS will alert governments, businesses and operators to major sources of methane to support rapid action in mitigating this potent gas.
Sharm el-Sheikh, November 11, 2022 – As part of global efforts to slow climate change by tackling methane, the UN today announced a new satellite-based system to detect greenhouse gas emissions and enable governments and businesses to react.
The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), launched on 27e The United Nations Climate Change Conference is a data-to-action platform set up as part of UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) strategy to put policy-relevant data between good hands for emissions mitigation.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, responsible for at least a quarter of current global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we must reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 – the goal of the Global Methane Pledge – to maintain the temperature limit of 1.5 °C at your fingertips.
Developed under the Global Methane Pledge Energy Pathway – with seed funding from the European Commission, US Government, Global Methane Hub and Bezos Earth Fund – MARS will enable UNEP to corroborate company-reported emissions and characterize changes over time. MARS will be implemented with partners such as the International Energy Agency and the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
“As UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report showed ahead of this climate summit, the world is a long way from limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” said Inger Andersen, Director UNEP Executive. “Reducing methane emissions can make a big and fast difference because the gas leaves the atmosphere much faster than carbon dioxide. The Methane Alert and Response System is a big step forward in helping governments and businesses meet this important near-term climate goal.
In addition to supporting MARS, the Global Methane Hub and the Bezos Earth Fund fund other UNEP IMEO activities. These include baseline studies and initial work on agricultural methane emissions, where the integration of ground-based measurements at multiple scales with emerging satellite capability should provide improved quantification.
First public global system linking methane detection to notification processes
MARS will be the first publicly available global system capable of seamlessly connecting methane detection to reporting processes. It will use state-of-the-art satellite data to identify major emission events, inform relevant stakeholders, and support and track mitigation progress.
Beginning with very large point sources from the energy sector, MARS will integrate data from the rapidly expanding system of methane sensing satellites to include low emission area sources and more frequent sensing. Coal, waste, livestock and rice data will be added to MARS gradually to support the implementation of the Global Methane Pledge.
“Reducing methane is the quickest opportunity to reduce warming and keep 1.5°C within reach, and this new alert and response system will be a critical tool to help us all meet climate change. ‘global methane commitment,’ said John Kerry, USA. Special envoy of the president for the climate.
Methane Alert and Response System Components
MARS will use data from global mapping satellites to identify very large methane plumes and methane hotspots and high-resolution satellite data to then attribute emissions to a specific source. UNEP will then notify governments and companies of the emissions, either directly or through partners, so that the responsible entity can take appropriate action.
Upon request, MARS Partners will provide technical or advisory services such as assistance in assessing mitigation opportunities. UNEP will continue to monitor the event location and make data and analysis publicly available between 45 and 75 days after detection.
“We are seeing methane emissions increasing at an accelerating rate. Through this initiative, armed with increased data and transparency, companies and governments can make greater strides in reducing methane emissions and civil society can hold them accountable to their promises,” said Dr Kelly Levin, Head of Science, Data and Systems Change at the Bezos Earth Fund.
“The science is clear. We need to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, to keep 1.5°C alive. Fortunately, action on methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective and effective measures a country can take,” said Marcelo Mena, CEO of Global Methane Hub and continued: “Therefore, Global Methane Hub is pleased to partner with UNEP and the Bezos Earth Fund, on providing critical resources – to the MARS initiative – that can enable the identification and rapid response to major methane emissions from the energy sector, as well as taking the first steps to enable satellite observations to address methane emissions from the agricultural sector.
“To limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees, it is crucial to combat methane emissions. These emissions often peak in specific areas for limited times, for example in the energy sector due to leaks, venting and flaring. The early detection of these peaks makes it possible to react more quickly”, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. “The Methane Alert and Response System does just that. With funding and free satellite data from Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, the system will allow every country to act quickly to reduce methane emissions.
“The Methane Alert and Response System is an important new tool to help identify major methane leaks,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “As the IEA analysis has highlighted, transparency is a critical part of the solution to solving the methane problem, and this new system will help producers detect leaks and stop them without delay if and when. they happen.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the United Nations Environment Program
The United Nations Environment Program is the leading global voice on environmental issues. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in environmental protection by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
UNEP is at the forefront of reducing methane emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise to well below 2°C. UNEP’s work revolves around two pillars: data and policy. UNEP helps businesses and governments around the world use its unique global database of empirically verified methane emissions to target strategic mitigation actions and support science-based policy options through the Observatory Methane Emissions International (IMEO). UNEP also promotes high-level commitments through advocacy work and helps countries implement measures that reduce methane emissions through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Both initiatives are central to the implementation of the Global Methane Pledge.
For more information please contact:
Keisha Rukikaire, Information and Media Officer, United Nations Environment Program
Sophie Loran, Communications Officer, Energy & Climate Branch, United Nations Environment Program