Gas certification “farce” branding the likes of Exxon as responsible despite polluting practices

8th September 2022, Washington DC – MiQ, America’s leading gas certifier, plans to certify 1.5 times more fossil gas than what is needed to keep global warming below the 1.5C threshold outlined in the Paris agreement, new analysis by Global Witness reveals today.

The research also shows how MiQ has branded the likes of Exxon and EQT as "Grade A" on their methane emissions, despite Exxon coming last in a ranking carried out by As You Sow, assessing S&P 500 companies on their actions on racial equity and environmental racism. As a result Exxon has been able to label itself as “best in class” for emission management, despite its negative impacts on communities of Color in the US.

These findings present a picture of how gas certification – a process gaining major traction in the US and purportedly designed to reduce the environmental impact of gas production – is being used by big polluters to greenwash their image and present themselves as climate friendly. Further problems at the heart of gas certification uncovered in the analysis include:

  • Gas certification is unregulated and voluntary, meaning companies are not obligated to be certified and when they are, there are no common standards on the process
  • Methodologies for gas certification are opaque
  • Its scope is limited purely to methane leaks during the production process and ignores carbon emissions in the rest of the supply chain
  • It fails to consider the environmental and health harms faced by communities that live close to gas production sites

Zorka Milin, Senior Advisor at Global Witness, said:

"It has now become clear that the industry touted gas certification is being used by big polluters to divert from their toxic practices. An organisation that is planning to certify more gas in the future than the world produces today has absolutely no place among those fighting the climate crisis."

"It is impossible to take seriously a process that allows companies like Exxon to say they’re responsible. As You Sow has found Exxon to have an ‘environmentally racist track record,’ and any certification lending credibility to a company that has spent decades spewing toxic waste into majority-black communities must be called into question.”

"Gas certification is not the answer to the climate crisis. Ending the global reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels like gas is the only solution that will make a difference. Certification is shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic – utterly futile and ignorant to the scale of the threat we face."

A push for gas certification has shot up in recent years and is growing in popularity off the back of the huge increase in liquefied natural gas imports from the US to Europe, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In January, MiQ stated on Twitter that it intends to certify 100% of the global gas market by 2030, which it forecast at 400 billion cubic feet, or 4,134 billion cubic meters of gas per year. This is more than the 4,014 billion cubic meters of gas currently produced, and 1.5 times more than the level of production that would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, according to an analysis of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Responding to Global Witness’ findings, MiQ stated that certification brought transparency to the sector, and while it believed in a “clean energy” future, this could not be achieved overnight and focusing on methane emissions was critical.

Exxon has previously responded to As You Sow, which ranked the company bottom of its list of 1000 companies’ racial equity and environmental racism track records. Exxon stated it had a “rich history of support for equality, minority involvement in our business, and for minority education and minority-led business development.”

Following this new analysis Global Witness is recommending that:

  • US policymakers should prioritize phasing out fossil gas extraction and export, ensuring a just transition for workers and communities.
  • Investors concerned about the ESG performance of the fossil gas industry should also be wary of the supposed benefits of certification and should instead be divesting from their investments in fossil fuels.
  • Gas buyers who are looking to gas certification to address the climate impacts of fossil gas should ensure they have credible plans for phasing out fossil gas, including shifting to fossil-free alternatives such as energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.