Coal mining emits 52.3 million tonnes of methane per year, rivaling oil (39 million tonnes) and gas (45 million tonnes), and comparable to the climate impact of the CO2 emissions of all coal plants in China, according to new mine-level data and modeling from Global Energy Monitor.
A slate of new coal mine projects currently under development could further emit 11.3 million tonnes of methane per year if the projects proceed as planned, and would effectively lock in new emissions equivalent to the coal-based CO2 emissions of the United States.
Global Energy Monitor’s analysis is the first assessment to estimate coal mine methane emissions worldwide at the asset level, using its newly enhanced Global Coal Mine Tracker in combination with the Model for Calculating Coal Mine Methane (MC2M), a peer-reviewed emissions methodology developed by experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Raven Ridge Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Ruby Canyon Engineering and published in 2020.
Our findings support new data from satellite campaigns and academic research that suggest coal mine methane emissions have gone underestimated in previous assessments and national inventories.
To remain within reach of the International Energy Agency’s roadmap for Net Zero 2030, coal mine methane emissions must fall 11% each year until 2030, according to GEM’s analysis. A wind down to that extent requires proactive planning and careful scrutiny in climate governance, including targeted mitigation plans and closures, and a faster phase-out of coal production.