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During UN climate negotiations, oil companies pledge to fight methane; Environmentalists call it a ‘smokescreen’


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Fifty oil companies representing nearly half of global production have committed to reaching a near-zero…

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Fifty oil companies representing nearly half of global production have committed to reaching near-zero methane emissions and ending routine flaring in their operations by 2030, a the president of this year’s United Nations climate talks said Saturday. a move that environmental groups called a “smokescreen.”

The announcement by Sultan al-Jaber, president of the climate summit known as COP28 and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., comes as he and others insisted his experience would enable him to bring the oil companies to the negotiating table. Al-Jaber argued that it was crucial to have industry buy-in to almost halve global greenhouse gas emissions in seven years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.

The engagement included major national oil companies such as Saudi Aramco, Brazil’s Petrobras and Sonangol, Angola, and multinationals such as Shell, TotalEnergies and BP.

“The world does not function without energy,” al-Jaber said. “Yet the world will collapse if we don’t fix the energy we use today, mitigate their emissions on a gigaton scale, and quickly shift to carbon-free alternatives . »

Methane can be released at several points during an oil and gas company’s operation, from hydraulic fracturing to when natural gas is produced, transported or stored. Over a shorter period of time, it is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change.

In the months leading up to COP28, there was talk that one of the most important outcomes could concern methane. Not only do methane leaks, as well as flaring, which involves burning excess methane, and gas venting all contribute to climate change, but these problems can largely be solved with current technologies and changes brought to operations. Indeed, oil and gas companies could have taken such steps years ago, but most did not, focusing more on expanding production than the byproducts of it .

In this way, the methane deal represented a potentially significant contribution to the fight against climate change that largely maintained the status quo for the oil and gas industry. Environmental groups were quick to criticize him.

The pledge is a “smokescreen to hide the reality that we must phase out oil, gas and coal,” says a letter signed by more than 300 civil society groups.

Marcelo Mena, CEO of Global Mthane Hub, rejected the idea that near-zero methane emissions commitments were a way to delay the phase-out of fossil fuels.

“We wouldn’t let oil companies seep into the ocean until they are phased out, so why would we let them release methane to make climate change worse?” said Mena, Chile’s former environment minister.

Still, Mena said self-reporting doesn’t go far enough to push oil and gas companies to make changes. Instead, he said putting a price on pollution, otherwise companies would find themselves priced out of markets that demand high standards due to leaks, would force change.

Stricter regulations are beginning to be imposed. On Saturday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule aimed at reducing emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants generated by the oil and gas industry. It targets emissions from existing oil and gas wells nationwide, rather than focusing only on new wells as previous EPA regulations did. It also regulates small wells that will be needed to detect and plug methane leaks.

Earlier this year, European Union negotiators reached an agreement to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector across all of the bloc’s 27 members. The agreement prohibits routine ventilation and flaring and requires strict reporting. By 2027, these standards will be extended to oil and gas exporters from outside the bloc.

Saturday’s announcement did not address the issue of oil and natural gas burned by end users, whether motorists in their cars or power plants powering cities. This combustion creates greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.

The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter is supported by both the United Arab Emirates and neighboring Saudi Arabia, two OPEC heavyweights. Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources, located close to the surface of its desert expanse, make it one of the cheapest places in the world to produce crude. ADNOC of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Aramco, the world’s third most valuable company, signed the commitment.

Separately, organizers said 110 countries had signed a pledge to triple global installed renewable energy capacity by 2030, a target promised in September by Group of 20 leaders. Their countries emit 80% of all greenhouse-effect gas.


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