UN Announces Satellite-Based Global Methane Detection System
The new Methane Alert and Response System initiative aims to scale up global efforts to detect and act on major emission sources in a transparent manner and accelerate implementation of the UN’s Global Methane Pledge. The system is designed to alert governments, companies, and operators about large methane sources to aid rapid mitigation.
“The Methane Alert and Response System is an important new tool to help pinpoint major methane leaks,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA. “As IEA analysis has highlighted, transparency is a vital part of the solution to tackle the methane problem, and this new system will help producers detect leaks and stop them without delay if and when they occur.”
As part of global efforts to slow climate change by tackling methane, the UN announced a new satellite-based system to detect emissions of the climate-warming gas and allow governments and businesses to respond.
The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), launched at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, is a data-to-action platform set up as part of the International Methane Emissions Observatory strategy of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to get policy-relevant data into the right hands for emissions mitigation.
Developed with initial funding from the European Commission, the US, the Global Methane Hub, and the Bezos Earth Fund, MARS is designed to allow UNEP to corroborate emissions reported by companies and characterize changes over time. MARS is planned to be implemented with partners including the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
“As UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report showed before this climate summit, the world is far off track on efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director. “Reducing methane emissions can make a big and rapid difference, as this gas leaves the atmosphere far quicker than carbon dioxide. The Methane Alert and Response System is a big step in helping governments and companies deliver on this important short-term climate goal.”
MARS will be the first publicly available global system capable of transparently connecting methane detection to notification processes. It will use state-of-the-art satellite data to identify major emission events, notify 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-detecting satellites to include lower-emitting area sources and more frequent detection. Data on coal, waste, livestock, and rice will be added gradually to MARS to support the UN Global Methane Pledge.
“Cutting methane is the fastest opportunity to reduce warming and keep 1.5°C within reach, and this new alert and response system is going to be a critical tool for helping all of us deliver on the Global Methane Pledge,” said John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate.
MARS will use data from global mapping satellites to identify very large methane plumes and methane hot spots and data from high-resolution satellites to attribute the emissions to a specific source. UNEP will then notify governments and companies about the emissions, either directly or through partners, so that the responsible entity can take appropriate action.
If requested, MARS partners will provide technical or advisory services such as help in assessing mitigation opportunities. UNEP will continue to monitor the event location and make the data and analysis available to the public between 45 and 75 days after detection.