China Signals Methane is a New Climate Focus for Curtailing Energy Emissions

As part of China’s 7th annual National Low-carbon Day, Tsinghua University and Environmental Defense Fund announced a new climate partnership to exchange technical and policy information that can build China’s capacity to reduce emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas that drives 25 percent of today’s global warming. The cooperation comes amidst growing concerns over the climate importance of methane by world-renowned scientists, even as China races to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and conventional air pollutants across its growing economy.

“China is recognizing the extreme importance and enormous opportunity of addressing fossil fuel methane emissions,” said Jianyu Zhang, Vice President and Chief Representative of EDF in China. “Reducing methane emissions across China’s energy sector can speed the country’s shift toward a lower-carbon green energy future by 2030 – a critical goal for China to achieve in order to improve local air quality and contribute to climate safety.”

The new collaborative, designed to support China’s policy-making and implementation efforts to curb methane emissions, provides a much needed venue among Chinese and international communities for exchanges and capacity building on sound methane accounting methodologies, advanced mitigation technologies, and best regulatory practices. Tsinghua University will host regular seminars, with support from EDF, to share the best practices being deployed by countries and companies around the world to drive reductions in methane emissions.

China is one of the world’s largest methane emitters, with almost 50 percent of China’s methane emissions stemming from energy activity (oil, gas and coal). Practical and effective emission reduction opportunities exist, such as sealing valves along gas pipelines, properly closing hatch doors on gas storage tanks or improving recovery and use of coal-mine methane. There is significant opportunity for China to reduce fossil fuel methane emissions and accelerate overall greenhouse gas reductions, with increased field study to pinpoint emissions from key sources.

An extensive body of scientific literature, coordinated by EDF and comprised of over 35 peer-reviewed studies, has shown that methane emissions associated with oil and gas activity are higher than government inventories estimate. Unaccounted methane emissions are typically associated with unpredictable sources, but preventive measures and frequent inspections can significantly mitigate these leaks, even as new scientific methods – including satellites that will measure methane from space – enhance our understanding of the global methane picture.

According to the International Energy Agency, the global oil and gas industry can reduce methane emissions by 75 percent using current technologies – with up to two thirds of these reductions at zero net cost. Application of digital technologies, a field in which China enjoys a global edge, could spur economic and environmental benefits through methane emissions reductions along the oil and gas supply chain. At the same time, satellite technologies like MethaneSAT – a mission being developed by EDF and due to be launched in 2021 – could offer an additional tool for China to identify, measure and verify fossil fuel methane emissions.

The Tsinghua-EDF partnership was announced in conjunction with the first event hosted by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on monitoring energy sector methane emissions – selected as one of four focus areas of the National Low-carbon Day. The event builds on earlier public statements made by Director General Li Gao, Department of Climate Change in October 2018 that China will take further steps to control non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.

At the methane event, MEE Deputy Director General Jiang Zhaoli said in his opening remarks, “for next steps, the work will be focused on research of methane emissions reduction mechanisms and roadmap, establishing monitoring standards and methodologies, data collection, development of work plan and capacity building.”

“EDF looks forward to working with Tsinghua University in support of China’s increasing ambition in meeting its Paris commitment,” Jianyu Zhang, Chief Representative of EDF in China.

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