Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The world's biggest oil and gas companies have agreed to a track and report methane emissions with greater accuracy and transparency, according to an announceetnt by the United Nations Environmental Program.
"To win the race to net zero emissions, we need everyone on board. We need ambitious action from the oil and gas industry," Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environmental Program, said in a news release.
"UNEP is committed to supporting efforts that reduce methane emissions, and we recognize the leadership of companies that have joined such an ambitious methane reporting framework. We look forward to seeing actions that turn commitments into actual emissions reduction," Andersen said.
Efforts to slow climate change have primarily focused on human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, but a growing body of scientific evidence suggests human-caused methane emissions, while not as abundant as CO2 emissions, have been regularly underestimated.
Methane's greenhouse gas effect, the efficiency at which it accelerates global warming, is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
UNEP has been working with major players in the oil and gas industry to reduce methane emissions, but without a reliable monitoring framework, gauging the efficacy of emissions reduction programs and holding emitters accountable is difficult.
According to the United Nations, the new measurement-based methane-reporting framework will help investors, politicians, policy makers and the public compare the methane emissions -- and methane emissions reduction efforts -- of oil and gas companies all over the world.
So far, 62 companies on five continents, comprising nearly a third of the world's oil and gas production, have agreed to the monitoring and reporting framework, named the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, or OGMP2.0.
"Reducing methane emissions is a key element to ensure that natural gas fully plays its role in the energy transition and this new partnership will foster the sharing of industry best practices, especially on non-operated assets, and improve monitoring," said Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of Total, one of the world's biggest oil and gas companies.
"It is a new step in the fight against methane emissions and our industry is deeply committed to the success of this initiative," Pouyanné said.
UN officials expect the OGMP2.0 to help governments and companies to work together to achieve methane emissions reductions of 45 percent by 2025 and 60 to 75 percent by 2030.
Scientists estimate as much as three-quarters of methane emissions could be eliminated with technologies that are already available. Half of those reductions, researchers estimate, would come at a zero net cost for oil and gas companies.
If the oil and gas industry is able to reduce methane emissions by 90 percent by 2050, their actions would reduce forecasted warming by two-tenths of a degree Celsius.
The Paris Agreement, the 2016 agreement reached during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, calls on signatories to pursue policies that will limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Recent reports by UN scientists have shown current efforts to reduce emissions and slow global warming have fallen well behind the pace need to meet targets set by the Paris Agreement.
UN officials hope the new commitment to reduce methane emissions will reinvigorate broader efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
"Reducing methane emissions is a crucial effort in the industry's decarbonization pathway," said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company.
"As a factor on which we can have an immediate and concrete positive impact, OGMP 2.0 offers an internationally recognized blueprint to companies across our industry willing to make improvements in their emission reductions in all phases of the value chain," Descalzi said.
"We look forward to continue working with all partners involved, as only through collaboration with international organizations, civil society and governments we can deliver on our common goals," Descalzi said.
Despite verbal commitments from many of the world's oil and gas companies to aid the transition way from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, the industry's major players continue to invest billions of dollars into new oil and gas projects.
A report released by the International Energy Agency earlier this year found that the emissions reduction pledges made by the world's five biggest oil and gas companies fall short of progress mandated by the Paris Agreement.
"There are few signs of the large-scale change in capital allocation needed to put the world on a more sustainable path," IEA officials said when the report was published.