Global satellite methane detection system launched at COP27

Methane is a huge source of air pollution, forming ground-level ozone and causing 1 million premature deaths every year. It’s also a big driver of the climate crisis, contributing to a quarter of the planet’s warming and 25 times more damaging to the environment per molecule than carbon dioxide, research has shown.  

Now the United Nations (UN) has launched a new satellite-based system at COP27 to detect methane emissions across the globe and encourage governments and businesses to act.  

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) will be the world’s first publicly available global system to do so, set up under the framework of the Global Methane Pledge Energy Pathway organised at COP26 last year.  

Initial funds from the EU, US government, Global Methane Hub and the Bezos Earth Fund will go towards MARS, allowing it to track emissions from companies and changes over time.  

‘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.’  

MARS will use satellite data to identify major emission events, relying on global mapping to show large plumes and methane hot spots, allowing it track emissions to a specific source.  

It will integrate data from the methane satellite network, allowing it to detect methane from lower-emitting areas and more frequent detection. Eventually information on methane emissions from coal, waste, livestock and rice will also be added to the database. 

MARS will use this to notify relevant stakeholders, such as government and companies so they can take responsibility and take action, and then track the progress of these mitigation processes. UNEP will monitor the location of major pollution events and will make data and analysis available to the public 45 and 75 days after detection.  

‘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. 

Photo by Lomig


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