The Oil & Gas Methane Partnership is a valuable forum for companies aiming to earn public trust

Once considered a niche environmental concern, methane emissions have emerged as a strategic issue for oil and gas companies around the world. The reason is simple: methane emissions from human activities account for over one quarter of our planetary warming today, and the global oil and gas industry is responsible for nearly 30% of this.

Voluntary methane mitigation efforts by industry are necessary but not sufficient to fully address the scale of the problem. Government and civil society must also be engaged. At present the only global forum where industry, government and civil society come together on the issue is the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP), an UN-backed initiative that provides companies a platform through which to report their methane emissions and credibly share their actions and results with the public.

At a time when industry is trying to position natural gas as a cleaner, low carbon fuel, unchecked methane leaks are undercutting this claim and deepening concerns among public officials, customers and shareholders over the emissions footprint of the overall industry.

Some companies recognize the methane challenge and are taking steps toward earning public trust with the work they are doing, both individually and collectively. For example, 13 of the world’s leading energy producers are joined through the CEO-led Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and have pledged to limit their upstream emissions to 0.25%, with a further ambition to reach 0.20 % by 2025. Another industry-led effort, known as the Methane Guiding Principles, organizes its diverse membership around five core principles for reducing methane across the natural gas supply chain. On top of this, BP, Shell and Exxon have each recently set individual methane targets to limit emissions.

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The OGMP was launched at the 2014 UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit by a coalition of nine governments (Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States) and the UN, in an effort to help companies improve their methane performance. Providing transparency and sharing methane reduction best practices that can be applied industrywide is the core purpose of OGMP. The group complements other industry efforts but also offers unique value in its inclusive approach that engages governments and civil society alongside industry on an equal footing.

Objective and rigorous standards for evaluating progress against methane reduction targets is critical for industry’s credibility in tackling emissions of a potent, invisible greenhouse gas. Companies taking leadership action to reduce methane deserve credit for their work. OGMP’s importance lies in defining an acceptable universal practice for reporting and validation, which not only meets industry’s needs, but sets standards that win the trust of society.

Today, OGMP has more than 10 member companies (BP, Ecopetrol, Eni, Equinor, Neptune Energy International SA, Pemex, PTT, Repsol, Shell and Total), who together account for 15% of the world’s gas production. For the OGMP to help push industry forward and accelerate global methane reductions, it must continue to evolve toward an even more ambitious goal, while maintaining the inclusivity that is core to its credibility.

Recently, the European Commission (EC) took on a new role with OGMP, becoming the co-chair in partnership with UN Environment. The EC’s expanded involvement signals a new chapter in the group’s efforts between industry, government and civil society, to validate corporate commitments, advance measurement and abatement technologies and practices, and collect and disseminate more and better data. OGMP is also part of an effort to deepen our understanding of the magnitude and sources of oil and gas methane through a series of global science studies currently underway.

Last fall’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change documented the importance of methane in driving near-term global warming and underscored the urgency of taking immediate actions to reduce it and other greenhouse gases for climate safety. As a major source of methane, the oil and gas industry has a significant opportunity to help reduce the rate of warming in our lifetime, and an obligation to act. Partnering with government and civil society through a global initiative like OGMP is a logical and necessary step in both seizing this opportunity and fulfilling their responsibility.

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