Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

The Middle East is tackling the methane challenge

Methane is a major contributor to global emissions and a significant driver of climate change

Methane strorage tanks at Ibn Sina refinery in Jubail. Saudi Arabia has pledged to ban routine methane flaring, as has the UAE Alamy via Reuters
Methane strorage tanks at Ibn Sina refinery in Jubail. Saudi Arabia has pledged to ban routine methane flaring, as has the UAE

In the battle against climate change, CO2 often takes centre stage as the primary greenhouse gas of concern. 

But another potent gas demands our attention: methane, a colourless and odourless gas produced from both natural processes and human activities.

The sources of methane emissions include venting along with fugitive emissions (that is, leaks) from gas infrastructure, from unlit flares or incomplete flare combustion, from abandoned wells or “super remitters” resulting from well blowouts or poorly functioning midstream equipment. 



The largest source of methane emissions is what are known anthropogenic emissions – human activity. Of late, cow belching has also been in the spotlight.

Despite its lower concentration in the atmosphere compared with CO2, methane is a major contributor to global emissions and a significant driver of climate change – 28 times more potent than CO2 at trapping the heat in the atmosphere, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Methane has a relatively short atmospheric life of 12 years, but its impact on climate change is far-reaching and multifaceted.

Methane abatement refers to the suite of measures designed to reduce or eliminate methane emissions, such as improved livestock management, infrastructure upgrades and methane capture and use at landfills, wastewater treatment plants and fossil fuel facilities.

Incentives to reduce methane emissions are increasingly strong, and numerous measures are in place to accelerate the process.

These include regulatory requirements to report methane emissions, penalties associated with emissions, ability to detect emissions at a relatively low cost, or availability of emissions data in the public domain. 

This is coupled with available technology and operational best practices, and the ability to monetise the gas that is sent to markets instead of released into the atmosphere.

Methane initiatives in the Middle East

Methane emissions pose an acute challenge in the Middle East and North Africa as the region has a significant role in fossil fuel extraction and production. 

The region has a huge methane reduction potential, a collective know-how in the energy sector, and a strong commitment by governments and the private sector alike. 

The Global Methane Pledge, launched at Cop26, is signed by countries representing 45 percent of global methane emissions and aims to mobilise countries to reduce methane emissions collectively by 30  percent compared with 2020 levels by 2030. 

Last year’s Cop28 marked a breakthrough. More than 50 oil and gas companies signing a new Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, a pledge to achieve “near-zero methane emissions” on their upstream operations by 2030.

The Middle East Green Initiative is an effort led by Saudi Arabia to boost regional collaboration for meeting climate targets.

Countries such as Egypt have announced their intention to develop domestic methane regulations in their oil and gas sector by the end of 2024, while Iraq has announced the development of a national methane emissions inventory and a legislative framework for the oil and gas sector.

The Mena region is characterised by strong corporate commitment and the ability to tackle the methane challenge through collaborative action

GCC countries have announced ambitious commitments to net zero – the UAE and Oman by 2050, and Saudi Arabia by 2060. 

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken steps to cut emissions by banning the routine flaring of methane and other gases and the UAE is financially supporting the Global Flaring and Methane Reduction Partnership launched by the World Bank.  

The Mena region is also characterised by strong corporate commitment and ability to tackle the methane challenge through collaborative action, recently reaffirmed through a joint report issued at Mena Climate Week in October 2023. 

Many Mena companies are members of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, an initiative to measure, report, and reduce methane emissions representing  more than 80 companies with a significant share in the world’s oil and gas production, transmission and distribution. 

Companies such as Adnoc announced ambitious methane targets, among them the Upstream Methane Intensity target of 0.15 percent by 2025, the lowest in the Middle East.

Mena companies are also signatories of Aiming For Zero, an initiative by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a CEO-led organisation bringing together 12 of the world’s largest energy companies, to encourage the oil and gas industry to cut methane emissions. 

Are the pledges enough?

Although initiatives such as The Global Methane Pledge present a significant step forward for global collaboration, it is critical to implement the initiatives on the ground. 

Given the trans-boundary nature of methane emissions and their impact on global climate dynamics, addressing this issue requires active collaboration among countries in the Middle East and beyond.

In particular, partnerships and collaborations between local regulators, national oil companies, international oil companies and service companies are essential for reducing emissions on a global stage. 

International partnerships and agreements provide frameworks for multilateral cooperation on methane mitigation efforts.

Implementation, however, is another issue altogether.

Florent Rousset is strategy leader for production solutions at Baker Hughes and Aida Araissi is CEO of Bilateral Chamber 

Latest articles

Qatar Rwandair

South African Airways denies talks with Qatar Airways

South African Airways has denied it is talking to Qatar Airways about an equity injection, as observers suggest RwandAir is the Qatari carrier’s most likely target. Qatar Airways’ CEO Badr Mohammed Al Meer set rumours racing earlier this month when he revealed that the state-owned airline was “at the final stage of an equity investment” […]

The twisted Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina is among Drake & Scull's projects

Drake & Scull International shares up by 24% as trading resumes

Shares in Drake & Scull International rose by 24 percent on Wednesday as the troubled contractor resumed trading on Dubai Financial Market following a six-year suspension. DSI stock ended Wednesday at AED0.31, having started the day at AED0.25 – the price at which it sold AED450 million ($123 million) of shares earlier this month as […]

Emirates Airline cabin crew. The Investment Corporation of Dubai owns the airline and has a significant stake in Dubai's biggest bank Emirates NBD

Dubai wealth fund reports record net profit for second year running

Investment Corporation of Dubai, the Dubai government’s main investment unit, has reported a record annual net profit. Earnings were bolstered by higher interest rates and a resurgent aviation sector. ICD owns Emirates and FlyDubai airlines, travel agency Dnata, Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) and stock exchange operator Borse Dubai.  It also holds sizeable stakes in […]

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee watch the Black Eagles, the aerobatic team of T-50 jets belonging to South Korea's air force, during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Office in Seoul on May 29, 2024. JUNG YEON-JE/Pool via REUTERS

Trade deal signed during UAE state visit to South Korea

The UAE has signed a trade agreement with South Korea during a two-day state visit by the Emirati president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that has resulted in deals worth billions of dollars being struck between the two countries. The UAE has become the first Arab country to formally sign a comprehensive economic partnership […]