By Aidan Cameron
In the midst of hostile political debate and the anxiety of social media doom scrolling, it can be difficult to decipher between promise and action when it comes to the climate crisis. In the past month, however, Kayrros, a European-based technology start-up, has taken a major – and actionable – step forward after reaching an agreement with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). This agreement emerged after scientists from Kayrros developed a platform to monitor methane emissions on an international level. Despite knowledge of the detrimental effects of methane emissions, it has persisted as a key cause of environmental damage, hence new means of confronting the issue of methane emissions, at a global level, are essential.
To address this issue, the UNEP launched its International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) at the 2021 G20 Summit. IMEO has the stated aim of monitoring methane emissions globally, a goal it plans to achieve by combining third-party data with action on research, reporting and implementation. The agreement between Kayrros and UNEP was finalised on January 19th, 2023, and will see Kayrros providing UNEP with data for its IMEO initiative, which should serve to encourage transparency on primary emissions sources, as well as empower policymakers and national regulators to take action.
The data provided by Kayrros’ Methane Watch platform – currently the only platform able to monitor the entire planet for methane releases and quantify these emissions in an automated manner – will allow more in-depth analysis of methane emissions from gas, oil and coal extraction globally. This is necessary for several reasons. Firstly, most data on the issue of methane emissions currently emerges from basic emissions factor-based calculations, so they can be oversimplified. Furthermore, as it is usually done by companies themselves, it is prone to bias and has unsurprisingly been shown to underestimate actual methane emission rates significantly. A new method of accountability is urgently required, and the expectation is that Kayrros will provide this.
This year will see Kayrros and the UNEP’s IMEO cooperate with leading scientists to push the capabilities of satellite monitoring, and in the process provide new insights to support climate action via methane mitigation. At COP 28 in November, an update will be provided by UNEP based on the results of its partnership with Kayrros, which will focus on its use of satellites to reduce methane emissions and achieve the goals of the Global Methane Pledge. Being involved in global decision-making is a major accomplishment for this start-up, which undoubtedly has an interesting future ahead.