The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a new methane observatory as it looks to drive action on reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas.

The International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) was launched at the G20 Summit over the weekend, with support from the European Union.

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“Methane is one of the most dangerous gases for our climate. We urgently need to reduce methane emissions to keep our climate targets in reach,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

“Better satellite monitoring is essential and the EU is proud to support the creation of the International Methane Emissions Observatory.”

this is not a get-out-of-jail free card: methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonise the energy system to limit warming to 1.5°C

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen

The observatory will produce a global public dataset of “empirically verified methane emissions”, with its initial focus to be on the fossil fuel sector, which the UNEP notes is responsible for one-third of anthropogenic emissions and is the sector with the highest potential for reductions.

The IMEO will integrate data primarily from four streams: direct measurement data from scientific studies, remote sensing data, national inventories and reporting from the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 — a climate initiative led by the UNEP involving 62 companies representing 30% of the world’s oil and gas production.

It will also monitor commitments made by the more than 30 countries that have joined the US and EU-led Global Methane Pledge initiative, which aims to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The observatory will help improve the reporting accuracy and public transparency of human-caused methane emissions, with the UNEP claiming methane emissions are responsible for at least a quarter of current climate warming, with methane released directly into the atmosphere more than 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time horizon.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated the world needs to nearly halve methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030 if it is to hit a goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“As highlighted by IPCC, if the world is serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change, we need to cut methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry,” said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen.

“But this is not a get-out-of-jail free card: methane reductions must go hand in hand with actions to decarbonise the energy system to limit warming to 1.5°C, as called for in the Paris Agreement.”

Just last month, the International Energy Agency released a report highlighting pathways to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuels by up to 75% by 2030.

If such a reduction is achieved from the fossil-fuel sector alone, the IEA claims it would account for a 25% cut in methane emissions from human activity.

In order to maintain its independence and credibility, the UNEP said the IMEO would receive no industry funding, with its €100 million ($115.6 million) budget over the next five years to be funded by governments and philanthropies, with core resources provided by the European Commission as a founding member.