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Australia likely emitting twice as much methane than reported, says Rod Sims-led think tank

The Australian: Australia fossil fuel producers are probably emitting twice as much methane as they report under traditional measures, a think tank led by former competition tsar Rod Sims has concluded.

The Superpower Institute, a think tank that pushes for more aggressive energy transition targets, said it used a combination of atmospheric modelling and satellite measurements to develop its new monitoring tool – Open Methane – which found methane in the atmosphere was twice as much as had been declared.

“If you can’t measure the emissions then you can’t reduce them. Methane emissions are contributing enormously to global warming and the best thing we can do is reduce those,” Mr Sims told The Australian.

“The results show methane emissions are double what you would otherwise expect.

“That is an enormous difference and it must be that most of our coal mines are underreporting their emissions.

“They aren’t doing it deliberately – they are complying with the law – but the government must impose a proper measurement that is transparent and proper verification.”

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The findings echo other studies. Last year, the International Energy Agency used satellite imagery to estimate that in 2022 Australia’s coal mines were responsible for about 81 per cent more fugitive methane emissions than official statistics suggested, while oil and gas production generated 92 per cent more.

Mr Sims said the federal government must insist on more ­accurate data from coal producers or risk exacerbating climate change.

Historically, Australian emitters have used benchmark figures to estimate their methane output, but Mr Sims said the formula was antiquated and must be replaced.

Methane emissions are increasingly in the spotlight.

Australia has pledged to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 – a target that will be hard to meet, however, if emitters are forced to change their methodology for measuring emissions and record far higher levels.

Higher methane emissions from Australia’s largest emitters could put more pressure on the government to strengthen its signature Safeguard Mechanism, which requires the country’s largest emitters to reduce emissions by about 5 per cent each year.

The Superpower Institute urged the federal government to fund the construction of a minimum of 12 new monitoring sites around Australia.

Their measurements could be calibrated with those using the satellite technology.

Peter Rayner, chief scientist at the Superpower Institute, said Australia had no excuse not to make the critical investment.

“The technology is there. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand while methane is being underreported, there will be no integrity in our systems,” Mr Rayner said.

“Cutting methane is our single best strategy to combat global heating this decade while we make the changes needed to reduce Australia’s emissions to zero. But methane emissions are not being credibly measured.”

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