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Scope of the Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane


The Scope
At its first session held on 6 December 2004, the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (since 2014 renamed as Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane) prepared its Terms of Reference (2006) that were subsequently revised and adopted at the Group’s second meeting on 31 January - 1 February 2006 (see para. 9 and the Annex to the Group of Experts on CMM’s 2nd Session Report).

In 2011, at the sixty-fourth session of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Member States recalled the Commission’s reform adopted in December 2005 (see E/ECE/1434/Rev.1), welcomed its implementation and achievements, and decided to carry out its five-year review (see Decision A (64), and the Commission’s Biennial Report 1 April 2009–31 March 2011). Shortly after, in June 2011, the Executive Committee (EXCOM) adopted the modalities of the review (see ECE/EX/6), which stipulated, among other things, a necessary revision of the work and priorities within each of the eight subprogrammes implemented by ECE. In the light of the above, in November 2013, the Committee on Sustainable Energy recommended to EXCOM to adopt the decision regarding mandates and terms of reference of all of its subsidiary bodies, including the Group of Experts on CMM (see para. 22 and Annex I, Chapter V of the Committee’s 22nd Session Report). Following this recommendation, in March 2014 EXCOM issued the decision ECE/EX/7 approving both, the new Terms of Reference (2014) of the Group of Experts on CMM as well as extension of its mandate until December 2015. In accordance with paragraph 19 of the above-mentioned decision, the Group of Experts is mandated “to carry out concrete, result-oriented activities that promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines through recovery and use of methane” (see ECE/EX/7, Annex II, Chapter V).

The principal activity of the Group of Experts is to develop and disseminate the Best Practice Guidance for Effective Methane Drainage and Use in Coal Mines (BPG). In this context, it develops case studies on the application of BPG in various coal mines across the world. As experiences in CMM management vary significantly among states, exchange of knowledge and good practices is critically important. In 2011 the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) invited the United Nations Member States, international organizations and the regional commissions to take appropriate measures to ensure worldwide application of BPG (see ECOSOC Decision 2011/222). The Group of Experts on CMM works hard to effectively respond to this call.  In 2015, in order to keep BPG in tune with the most recent developments in the field of coal mine methane management, it has undertaken a task of updating and revising the document. Furthermore, mindful of the fact that dissemination of best practice principles is facilitated by providing access to case studies illustrating the successful implementation of practices that improve workers’ safety, reduce greenhouse emissions, and enhance economic performance of mines, the Group is making every effort to assure that the 2016 BPG is even more comprehensive in this regard than the first edition. The updated document will be available in the second half of 2016 in both, printed and electronic versions.

The Group of Experts is also actively involved in the process of setting up the International Centre of Excellence in CMM, which in the near future will undertake - under the auspices of UNECE - work on practical aspects of the abatement, capture and utilization of CMM emissions.

Furthermore, in 2015, in response to the request of the Committee on Sustainable Energy (see paragraph 44 of the Committee’s 24th Session Report), the Group of Experts decided to engage in the process of establishment and development of work of the UNECE Task Force on Methane Management in Extractive Industries (see point III e of the Annex to the Report of the 10th Session of the Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane). In addition, also in reaction to the Committee’s appeal (see paragraph 46 of the Committee’s 24th Session Report), the Group has undergone through a process of preparing a proposal on how to expand its current mandate to encompass work on the transition of traditional mining companies to become integrated energy providers and services companies and to explore the impact this transition might have on energy for sustainable development. As a result, at the sixteenth session held on 3-4 March 2021, "[n]oting the request of the Committee on Sustainable Energy at its twenty-ninth session that its expert groups consider in their work the changing social, environmental, and economic contexts for their activities and the principles of a just transition, the Group of Experts agreed to revise its mandate and work to orient them with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and embrace the principles of a just transition (para. 27, ECE/ENERGY/GE.4/2021/2).

The proposed new objectives of the Group are to promote efficient transition of industries along the coal value chain ensuring the reduction of associated greenhouse gas emissions and social equity of the process through substantive, results-oriented activities that may help the recovery and use of methane in order to reduce the risks of explosions in coal mines; mitigate climate change; and support sustainable development, and that may support communities, local economies and the environment in the just transition process (point A, ECE/ENERGY/GE.4/2021/4).

The proposed new areas of work are
(a) Recovery and use of methane from active, closed, or/and abandoned coal mines aimed at reducing the risks of explosions, mitigating climate change, and supporting sustainable development; 
(b) For those countries or regions/states that choose to cease coal mining and related activities, offer support on request on preparation of coal mines and coal mining regions and communities for mine closure and reorientation of the local economies; 
(c) Repurposing of mines and existing mining infrastructure and facilitating development of new profiles of economic activity and business models that preserve social cohesion and cultural heritage of the affected localities (point B, ECE/ENERGY/GE.4/2021/4).