The major gas leak from the sabotaged Nord Stream pipeline last year pushed Sweden’s annual planet-heating emissions up by 7%, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency reported Thursday.
The agency’s estimates show the largest part of the 2022 leak occurred within Denmark’s economic zone, but a whopping 5.8 million tons of climate pollution spilled within Sweden’s economic zone.
Without the Nord Stream leak, Sweden’s climate emissions would have actually been down 5% from 2021 levels.
The pollution was in the form of methane, the main component of the fossil-fuel gas people use to fuel stoves and heat homes, which has more than 80 times more warming power in the short-term than carbon dioxide. This gas can seep into the atmosphere from landfills, livestock and the oil and gas industry, particularly with pipeline leaks.
The September 2022 sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which pumped methane gas from Russia to Germany, was a major flashpoint in the energy war between Europe and Russia. Amid its invasion of Ukraine, Russia halted all gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 at the time, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. Authorities have yet to determine who was behind the sabotage.
At the time of the leak, UN Environment Programme detected on satellite a massive plume of concentrated methane. It later reported the ruptures were likely the largest single release of methane ever recorded.
Slashing methane emissions was a sharp focus in the early days of the recent UN COP28 climate summit in Dubai. Scientists have said that curtailing methane is the easiest and fastest way to change the path of rising global temperatures in the coming years due to its intense warming power.
Clarification: This story has been updated to note the leak spilled methane in Sweden’s economic zone.