Emissions from oil and gas production are significantly underreported, with data showing that of the countries required to report regularly to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emissions are as much as three times higher, a facility-level global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions by the non-profit organization Climate TRACE showed Wednesday.
Unveiled at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the UNFCCC, the inventory identified 72,612 individual sources of emissions worldwide.
These represent the top known sources of emissions in the power sector, oil and gas production and refining, shipping, aviation, mining, waste, agriculture, road transportation, and the production of steel, cement and aluminum.
Among the top countries that report their oil and gas production emissions to the UN, the inventory finds emissions are as much as three times higher than self-reported data.
UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said during his remarks about the launch of the inventory that one of the most striking early insights from this work is the scale of emissions from oil and gas production, particularly those that have not previously been reported.
'Climate TRACE data show that because of underreporting of methane leaks, flaring, and other activities associated with oil and gas production, emissions are many times higher than previously reported. This should be a wake-up call to governments and the financial sector, especially those that continue to invest in and underwrite fossil fuel pollution,' he said.
'The problem is even greater than we were led to believe and that means we must work even harder to accelerate the phase-out of all fossil fuels,' Guterres warned.
Emissions from oil and gas production, transport and refining had been significantly underestimated, last year's Climate TRACE inventory found, owing to limited reported requirements and consistent underestimates of methane emissions from both international flaring as well as leaks.
The newly incorporated data reveals satellite-detected emissions from practices like flaring and methane leakage in places like Russia, Turkmenistan, the US and the Middle East.
The inventory shows that the top 500 individual sources of emissions worldwide represent less than 1% of total facilities in Climate TRACE's dataset, but yet accounted for 14% of global emissions in 2021, more than the annual emissions of the US.
According to the latest data, power plants alone account for more than half of the emissions and three-fifths of the assets in the top 500 list, while 26 of the 50 largest sources of emissions worldwide are oil and gas fields and their associated production, processing, and transportation sites.
'The climate crisis can, at times, feel like an intractable challenge in large part because we have had a limited understanding of precisely where emissions are coming from,' said former US Vice President and Climate TRACE founding member Al Gore during the launch of the inventory.
'This level of granularity means that we finally have emissions data that enable us to act decisively. It also means we can prioritize efforts to achieve the deep cuts in greenhouse gas pollution we need to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.'
- 52 countries have submitted no emissions inventories in past 10 years
As of the end of October, no nation has submitted a complete accounting of its emissions for 2021 to the UNFCCC, while 52 countries have not submitted any emissions inventories covering the past ten years.
Climate TRACE said its database provides emissions information from 2015 to 2021 for every party to the Paris Agreement as well as dozens of additional territories, and its updated inventory adds emissions data for 2021 and provides additional sub-sector specificity to national inventories.
The inventory harnesses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data from more than 300 satellites and more than 11,100 air, land and sea-based sensors.
Climate TRACE said next year it will expand and refine its facility-level inventory from at least the top 500+ sources of emissions per sector.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt