In his first address before the U.N. General Assembly in New York this September, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim emphasised the importance of global action on climate change and called upon developed nations to fulfil their commitment to mobilise US$100 billion annually to support climate ambitions in the Global South.
As he noted, Malaysia is already experiencing many adverse effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, intensified monsoons, and erratic weather patterns, all of which have disrupted local livelihoods and degraded local ecosystems. “As such, we have not a moment to lose,” he said.
Methane offers the quickest route to slow the rate of warming in our lifetime.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the primary component of natural gas. It is a leading cause of current global warming, with more methane in the atmosphere today than any time in modern history. At least 25 per cent of today’s global warming is driven by methane from human actions, and the world’s oil and gas industry is a leading contributor. Oil and gas facilities offer the quickest, most affordable and simplest way for us to reduce methane emissions now.
The Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) is a global nonprofit organisation that has led scientific efforts to focus the world’s attention on the importance of reducing methane emissions. Our research shows that concerted global action using existing technologies can slow the rate of warming by as much as 30 per cent by 2030.
This methane opportunity is already being seized by Malaysia, where the government and Petronas have committed to reducing methane emissions, particularly from the oil and gas industry. By doing so, Malaysia is clearly showing its commitment towards the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) and the Paris Agreement.
As the Ministry of Economy develops the Natural Gas Roadmap under Malaysia’s recently launched national energy transition roadmap (NETR), and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources receives input from the COP28 Climate Change Advisory Panel, EDF respectably requests that Minister Rafizi Ramli and Minister Nik Nazmi consider the following options to achieve Malaysia’s energy transition and Net Zero goals:
- A national methane mitigation policy. Around 80 per cent of no-cost methane reduction actions come from the oil and gas industry and represent one of the cheapest options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in any economy. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) 35 per cent of Malaysia’s methane emissions come from the energy sector, and primarily from the oil and gas industry. In 2021, this represented approximately US$212 million of domestic gas that was wasted instead of sold and used. The climate benefits of eliminating this methane waste would be the same as the removal of 9.3 coal power plants.
- A domestic charge on methane emissions from oil and gas facilities. Malaysia is the second-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia and the world’s fifth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Its major trading partners are Japan and South Korea, both of whom are increasingly favouring low-emissions LNG. In July, Japan, South Korea, the United States, the EU and Australia announced that they are collaborating to limit methane emissions from LNG supply chains.The EU this month launched the world’s first carbon border tariff. A domestic methane charge tax would provide incentives for the oil and gas industry to develop natural gas at the lowest possibly methane emissions intensity to safeguard the more than US$1 billion/year in trade revenue per year from EU exports.
- Policy support for methane innovation. Innovation is a key driver to creating new opportunities that can spur economic growth and improve domestic prosperity. A partnership between the UAE and Malaysia, both major producer countries, to stand-up a Methane Innovation Hub in Malaysia would be a first-of-a-kind South-South cooperation for decarbonisation. Policy support for such an initiative could be in the form of “Moonshot” R&D projects to develop solutions to the Energy Trilemma - energy security, affordability and environmental sustainability.
At COP27 last year, EDF supported the previous Malaysian government in organising a high-level Methane Panel with senior climate government and corporate leaders from the US, Canada, Malaysia, and Petronas. In November 2023, Malaysia will be hosting the Asia Pacific Climate Week demonstrating the current government’s commitment to address climate challenges on a regional scale. The upcoming COP28 in Dubai, UAE would be the ideal venue for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to announce innovative policy options to showcase his government’s climate leadership role on the global stage.
Dr. Shareen Yawanarajah is a director at EDF, leading energy transition work in the Global South, drawing on her extensive industry career as a geoscientist, and experience in climate and energy policy.