Canada stepped forward Monday as the first and so far only national subscriber to a global climate change policy goal of cutting oil and gas industry methane emissions by 75% from 2012 levels as of 2030.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson kept a Canadian Liberal government re-election promise by endorsing a toughened version of a “global methane pledge” discussed at an international cabinet-level meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC).

Like the U.S. and European Union co-chairs of the talks, Wilkinson supported overall methane emissions reductions of 30%. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry reported 31 countries endorse the goal, including nine of the top 20 emitters.

Wilkinson went a step further by adding that his Liberal administration intends to enforce the stricter 75% target exclusively on the oil and natural gas sector, as recommended by the International Energy Agency.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in August had singled out the oil and gas industry as a target for toughened pollution policing in his campaign for reelection of his Liberal government.

The Environment Minister did not spell out how the tough target would be hit. His report on the Vancouver commitment said, “Our approach will include regulations. Moving forward, Canada will mobilize and work with the energy sector, provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders in developing our approach.”

As one of the world’s top five exporters, Canada’s oil and gas industry accounts for about 51% of national methane emissions estimated, equivalent to 40.4 million tons/year of carbon dioxide, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).

About four-fifths of the country’s fossil fuel production sector’s emissions are attributed to wells in concentrated regions of Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan.

An array of technical initiatives by the industry and the top producer provinces are at work on cleaning up field operations, often by replacing pneumatic control devices and pumps traditionally powered by wellhead gas flows instead of compressed air.

A 75% methane emissions cut would be more difficult to achieve in the United States than in Canada because the American industry is more widely dispersed, CERI noted. In the United States, field production is only credited with 35% of emissions.

“The U.S. has more extensive inter- and intra-state transmission pipelines with a total length of nearly 500,000 kilometers,” or 300,000 miles, which is five times that of Canada, CERI noted. There are more than 1,200 compressor stations in the U.S. compared to about 200 in Canada.

“The U.S. also uses more natural gas and has much larger distribution systems,” equal to around 1.2 million miles of pipe, versus Canada’s 270,000 miles. 

CERI added that “U.S. distribution systems have more high-emitting cast iron and bare steel pipe – 9% of the total distribution system – than Canada’s 0.2%.”