Liapeng Raliengoane

Lesotho – As part of global efforts to slow climate change by tackling methane, the Unite Nations (UN) last week Friday announced a new satellite-based system to detect emissions of the climate warming gas and allow governments and businesses to respond.

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), launched at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, is a data-to-action platform set up as part of the UNEP International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) strategy to get policy-relevant data into the right hands for emissions mitigation.

“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 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,” she added.
“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.

“To keep the global temperature rise limited to 1.5 degrees, it is crucial that we tackle methane emissions. These emissions often peak in specific areas for limited amounts of time, for example in the energy sector due to leaks, venting, and flaring. Early detection of these peaks makes it possible to respond faster,” Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, contributing at least a quarter of today’s climate warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world must cut methane emissions at least 30% by 2030, the goal of the Global Methane Pledge is to keep the 1.5°C temperature limit within reach.

Developed in the framework of the Global Methane Pledge Energy Pathway with initial funding from the European Commission, the US Government, Global Methane Hub, and the Bezos Earth Fund, MARS will allow the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to corroborate emissions reported by companies and characterize changes over time.

MARS will be implemented with partners including the International Energy Agency, and the UNEP-hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
According to a press release by UNEP, MARS will be the first publicly available global system capable of transparently connecting methane detection to notification processes.

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

Beginning with very large point sources from the energy sector, MARS will integrate data from the rapidly expanding system of methane-detecting satellites to include lower-emitting area sources and more frequent detection. Data on coal, waste, livestock and rice will be added gradually to MARS to support Global Methane Pledge implementation.

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

UNEP will then notify governments and companies about the emissions, either directly or through partners, so that the responsible entity can take appropriate action.
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

According to its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), Lesotho’s Second National Communication (SNC) shows that three major sectors account for the emissions burden of the country. These are Energy (including transportation), Agriculture and Waste sector.

However, in the SNC, emissions from forestry and other land uses, as well as in industrial processes have not been analysed since they have a relatively insignificant share in total GHG emissions. The future these will be monitored and analysed to establish the emerging trends with time.

Though Lesotho’s GHG emissions represent only 0.005% of global emissions and net per capita emissions, inclusive of all sectors, are 1.1 tCO2e, it is highly vulnerable to climate change, particularly in the agriculture, energy and water sectors and has already experienced extreme weather shifts.

Ahead of COP27, Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, CAN International has said “COP27 is happening on the frontlines of the climate crisis- on the African continent which contributes less than 4% of global emissions yet suffers disproportionate climate impacts.
Chair of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), Ephraim Mwepya Shitima Africa is already experiencing severe and widespread impacts of climate change causing devastation to lives, livelihoods and the continent’s development trajectory. And this is a clear manifestation of climate injustice.

The COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact stressed that national emission reduction plans need to be aligned with a 1.5C temperature limit. Many countries, both developed and developing, have committed to reach net zero emissions by mid-century. But emissions have yet to fall, as global emissions returned to pre-pandemic levels.