On March 14, the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo co-hosted a “Roundtable on Meeting the Twin Challenges of Climate Change and Energy Security through Methane Mitigation.” Nearly 50 leaders from government, business, technology, industry association and non-profit communities from the United States, Japan and the European Commission gathered together to explore pathways to reduce harmful methane emissions. The two-hour dialogue addressed how near-term action to reduce methane emissions could increase gas supply and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. This event was held within the Council’s Climate and Sustainability Initiative supported by the Initiative’s Founding Strategic Partner, Amazon.
Methane, a greenhouse gas, is often overlooked for the better-known carbon dioxide (CO2). However, methane warrants greater attention as it is responsible for about 30% of the current rise in global temperatures, according to the IEA. Methane concentration in the atmosphere is about 2.5 times greater than pre-industrial levels, and is rising steadily as a result of continued fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal) operations and burning biomass (woodlands, savanna, agricultural waste). Though it has a shorter atmospheric lifespan compared to carbon dioxide (approximately 12 years compared to carbon dioxide’s centuries), methane is, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere” and absorbs a far greater amount of energy while it exists there in the atmosphere.
S&P Global recently reported that methane mitigation via capturing natural gas leaks would not only reduce emissions, but would also provide additional gas supply to help alleviate tight markets and have a significant impact on the global gas supply in the short term, creating a dual solution for energy security and climate change. This comes on the heels of recent multilateral commitments and high-level attention from the U.S., European Union, Japan among many others to combat methane emissions (including the 2021 COP 26 launch of the Global Methane Pledge) and against the backdrop of some innovative regional collaborations on mitigation activities.
At the Roundtable, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel provided opening remarks, emphasizing opportunities for joint U.S.-Japan action to reduce methane emissions, including by capturing wasted gas. Ambassador Emanuel was joined by U.S. government officials, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the European Commission. Other participants included U.S. and Japanese industry leaders, as well as representatives from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC), S&P Global and the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). USJC Senior Advisor Yasuo Tanabe moderated the dialogue, which was held under Chatham House rules.
American and Japanese industry representatives noted the difficulty of accurately quantifying methane leaks and briefed on ongoing research and technology development. Participants agreed that there are opportunities to cooperate in the near-term on an internationally-agreed shared measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) framework for such emissions in the fossil fuel supply chain. There was further recognition of opportunities to cooperate on the application of both U.S. and Japanese technologies toward methane mitigation. Participants also discussed cross-cutting approaches to methane emissions from the agriculture, waste, and energy sectors.
The conversation underscored that U.S.-Japan collaboration remains key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy security and was timely given the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment that Japan will host in Sapporo.
Roundtable Moderator and USJC Senior Advisor Yasuo Tanabe published an excellent analysis inspired by the Roundtable titled, “Japan should Lead Global Efforts to Reduce Methane Emissions” (original in Japanese; English translation of the original Japanese is here).
Other articles and resources to learn more:
- S&P Global Report: Higher Natural Gas Prices Have Made Methane Capture Projects Increasingly Economic, Potentially Unlocking Vast Amounts of New Supply While Lowering Overall Emissions (Dec. 14, 2022)
- IEA Global Methane Tracker 2023
- Global Methane Pledge (Nov. 17, 2022)
- November 2022 Rystad report on Japan’s opportunities to address global methane emissions (Nov. 24, 2022)
- “Climate Conversations: Methane” webinar hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Feb. 23, 2023)