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EU methane legislation

Environmental groups call on the European Commission to act on energy imports

October 11, 2021 Work Area: Super Pollutants

BRUSSELS: Leading environmental groups have today called on European Commissioners to address methane emissions from imports of oil, gas and coal in the upcoming EU methane legislation, which is expected to be proposed in December 2021.

Last year, the European Commission adopted the EU Methane Strategy to tackle methane emissions as part of 2030 climate targets and the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. In the coming months, the Commission will submit a legislative proposal that will include measures to monitor and mitigate methane emissions.

However, there is a gaping absence – imported gas, oil and coal.

“As the largest importer of oil and gas in the world, the EU is in a unique position to lead on methane reductions,” said Jonathan Banks, International Director, Super Pollutants at Clean Air Task Force.

“Word today from Executive Vice President Timmermans that they plan to tackle methane emissions from imported oil and gas is therefore particularly worth highlighting. We have seen in the past that EU-standards can influence actions and legislation around the world – a focus on imports could be a critical step towards taking the fight against methane global.”

The EU imports more than 80 per cent of the fossil gas it consumes, 90 per cent of the crude oil and 40 per cent of the coal long after methane has been emitted outside EU borders where most methane emissions occur. And when methane leakage rates along the gas supply chain exceed three per cent, the climate impact of fossil gas is worse than that of coal in power generation.

To address methane emissions, the EU will need to cut its domestic emissions, but to address the core problem, it is also critical that all measures are extended to imported oil, gas and coal. Ultimately, the environment is indifferent to where emissions occur.

To urge the Commission to make energy imports conditional on their compliance with EU regulations, a coalition of organisations has alerted Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy and Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, through a letter sent today outlining concern that the Commission will propose to apply the regulatory framework only within the EU rather than extending it to the whole supply chain, calling it a “unjustified and irresponsible lack of ambition.”

The groups also address the recently announced Global Methane Pledge, a diplomatic effort which should encourage concrete EU policy. At the ministerial meeting on the Global Methane Pledge earlier today, Mr Timmermans stressed that the largest methane emissions associated with European economy take place outside of the EU borders during the production and transport of the fossil fuels that we import, and he said that “before the end of the year, we will follow-up with a legislative framework to reduce methane emissions across the whole energy supply chain in the EU and in partner countries which export fossil fuels to the EU”.

We call on the Commission to build on this promise as soon as possible. Prior regulations provide inspiration; the EU Timber regulation has put in place an immediate suspension of the authorisation to import until violations are addressed; and the EU F-Gas Regulation has implemented a reduction in allowable imports from one year to next.

Many important stakeholders share the position of the signatories – the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has called the Commission to integrate the rules on the whole supply chain in the legislative proposal. But also, major energy companies such as Shell, BP and Total among many others have also come out in support of introducing EU rules to all oil and gas consumed in the EU.

“The Commission has an opportunity to further establish itself as a global leader on tackling methane emissions,” said Alessia Virone, Government Affairs Manager, Europe at Clean Air Task Force.

“Ultimately, the implementation phase is where real change is made, and where global climate tipping points can be avoided. If the EU doesn’t strive to implement cuts from the entire oil and gas supply chain, it won’t be moving the needle on methane, which is the only climate action we can take right now that will significantly reduce the amount of global warming we experience over the next two decades.”

Media contact: Rowan Emslie – Director of Communications, EU; remslie@cleanairtaskforce.org, +32 476 97 36 42


About Clean Air Task Force

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a non-profit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid global development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. We work towards these objectives through research and analysis, public advocacy leadership, and partnership with the private sector. With nearly 25 years of nationally and internationally recognized expertise on clean air policy and regulations and a fierce commitment to fully exploring all potential solutions, CATF is an environmental advocacy group with the bold ideas needed today to solve the climate crisis.

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