UN to deploy satellite-based system to track methane emissions from space

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), launched at the COP27 climate summit, is a data-to-action platform to get policy-relevant data for emissions mitigation

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The UN has announced a new initiative that will see the organisation deploy a satellite-based system to track methane emissions from space.

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), launched at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt last week, is a data-to-action platform set up as part of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) strategy to get policy-relevant data for emissions mitigation.

According to UNEP, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, contributing at least a quarter of the climate warming.

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested methane emissions must be reduced by at least 30% by 2030 – the goal of the Global Methane Pledge – to keep the 1.5°C temperature limit within reach.

MARS will be the first publicly available global system capable of transparently connecting methane detection to notification processes, using satellite data to identify major emission events, notify stakeholders and support and track mitigation process.

UNEP will then notify government and companies about their emissions, either directly or through partners so they can take appropriate action.

If requested, MARS partners will also provide technical or advisory services such as help in assessing mitigation opportunities.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP said: “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.

“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 receive initial funding from the European Commission, the US Government, Global Methane Hub and the Bezos Earth Fund and will be implemented with partners including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol added: “The Methane Alert and Response System is an important new tool to help pinpoint major methane leaks.

“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.”