COP27: UN Announces New System To Detect Climate-Warming Methane Emissions From Space

COP27: UN Announces New System To Detect Climate-Warming Methane Emissions From Space

COP27: At the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, the UN announced a new high-tech, satellite-based system that could detect climate-warming methane emissions. In other words, the system can detect methane emissions from space, allowing governments and businesses to respond. The satellite-based system, called the Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), is a data-to-action platform set up as part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) strategy to get policy-relevant data into the right hands for emissions mitigation, a UN statement says. 

All about MARS

Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, contributes to at least a quarter of today’s global warming. It is important to cut methane emissions at least by 30 per cent by 2030, in order to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit within reach, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Cutting methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030 is the goal of the Global Methane Pledge. 

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MARS is developed in the framework of the Global Methane Pledge Energy Pathway. It received initial funding from the European Commission, the United States Government, Global Methane Hub and the Bezos Earth Fund. 

MARS will allow UNEP to corroborate emissions reported by companies. MARS, which can characterise changes in emissions over time, will be implemented with partners including the International Energy Agency, and the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition. 

In a statement released by UNEP, Inger Anderson, Executive Director of UNEP, said the world is far off track on efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as shown by UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report. 

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She added that reducing methane emissions can make a big and rapid difference, because this gas leaves the atmosphere far quicker than carbon-dioxide. MARS is a big step in helping governments and companies deliver on the important short-term climate goal of reducing methane emissions. 

The Global Methane Hub and Bezos Earth Fund are also providing funding for other UNEP IMEO activities, including baseline studies and initial work on agricultural methane emissions. Integration of multi-scale ground measurements with emerging satellite capacity is expected to provide improved quantification.

What makes MARS special

MARS is the first public global system capable of transparently connecting methane detection to notification processes. Using state-of-the-art satellite data to identify major emission events, MARS will notify relevant stakeholders, and support and track mitigation progress.

MARS will begin with very large point sources from the energy sector. The system will integrate data from the rapidly expanding system of methane-detecting satellites to include lower-emitting area sources. This will allow more frequent detection of methane-emitting sources. There will be a gradual addition of data on coal, waste, livestock and rice to MARS to support Global Methane Pledge implementation. 

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John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said cutting methane is the fastest opportunity to reduce warming and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. He also said that this new alert and response system is going to be a critical tool for helping the world deliver on the Global Methane Pledge.

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What are the roles of MARS?

MARS will identify very large methane plumes and methane hotspots using data from global mapping satellites and high-resolution satellites to then attribute the emissions to a specific source. After this, UNEP will notify governments and companies about the emissions, either directly or through partners. This will allow the responsible entity to take appropriate action. 

MARS partners will provide technical or advisory services such as help in assessing mitigation opportunities, if requested.