UN unveils satellite-based system to cut methane emissions

UN Methane satellite

HQ Team

November 12, 2022: The UN has announced a satellite-based system to detect methane emissions for governments and businesses to respond swiftly.

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) is a data-to-action platform set up as part of the UN Environmental Programme and International Methane Emissions Observatory.

It will “get policy-relevant data into the right hands for emissions mitigation,” according to a UN statement.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is responsible for about a quarter of global warming. MARS will be the first publicly available global system to connect methane detection to notification processes transparently.

Track mitigation

It will use state-of-the-art satellite data to identify significant emission events, notify relevant stakeholders, and support and track mitigation progress. 

MARS will use data from global mapping satellites to identify huge methane plumes and hot spots. It will then use data from high-resolution satellites to attribute the emissions to a specific source.

The UNEP will then notify governments and companies about the emissions, directly or through partners, so that the responsible entity can take appropriate action.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, the world must cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 to keep the 1.5°C temperature limit within reach.

The initial funding for MARS will come from the European Commission, the US, Global Methane Hub and Bezos Earth Fund.

‘Rapid difference’

The MARS will allow UNEP to corroborate emissions reported by companies and characterize changes over time.

“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, Executive Director of UNEP.

“Reducing methane emissions can make a significant 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.”

Methane released by human activities is responsible for around 25% of anthropogenic climate change.

“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, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

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