European Commission develops first EU-wide proposal on cutting methane emissions in energy sector
BRUSSELS — A little over a year since announcing its pioneering Methane Strategy, the European Commission has today released its legislative proposal to cut methane pollution in the EU. Specifically, this proposal tackles methane in the energy sector, an area that offers the quickest and easiest routes to reducing methane emissions. This ‘Methane Regulation’ focuses on cutting methane emissions from the gas, oil, and coal sectors. Clean Air Task Force welcomes the progress made by this proposal as EU-wide action on methane pollution is sorely needed.
“After more than a year and a half of meetings, proposals and comments, today’s legislative proposal is a welcome step forward to cut methane in the EU,” said Jonathan Banks, CATF’s International Director, Methane. “Today’s legislation makes strong progress on domestic methane emissions, but more is still needed to cut methane emissions from imported gas, something we will be emphasizing as the legislative process moves forward.”
The EU imports over 80% of its fossil gas and 90% of its oil. Therefore, the EU’s methane pollution problem extends beyond the borders of the EU. The Commission’s proposal includes measures on transparency and visibility on methane emissions from imports and leaves open the possibility for future action to cut methane from imports. However, the importance of methane emissions from imported oil and gas is something that should be fully addressed in this legislation.
The EU has been instrumental in driving international action on methane through the recent Global Methane Pledge, spearheaded by the EU and the US, with more than 100 countries committed to reduce their methane emissions by 30% by 2030. But the EU needs to keep the pressure on and match their international ambition to the ambition in its legislative proposals. With strong imports standards, the EU can drive further changes internationally and, consequently, send a clear signal to its trade partners.
Adding requirement on methane reduction from imports will be needed to ensure that the EU legislation is ambitious enough to serve as an example to the many states around the globe currently drafting their own policy on methane.
“We’re hoping that the European Parliament will use this initial proposal as a jumping off point for a more ambitious piece of legislation that takes into account the entire oil and gas supply chain,” said Alessia Virone, CATF’s EU Affairs Manager. “Methane pollution isn’t an issue that allows for slow and steady progress. Cutting methane is the only climate action we can take right now that will significantly slow down global warming in the next two decades.”
The proposed Methane Regulation includes four key domestic measures for the oil and gas sectors that, together, should efficiently reduce domestic methane emissions in the EU:
- Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV): Methane emissions inventories have so far been the object of demonstrated low bias: global anthropogenic fossil methane emissions are up to 40% higher than reported. The proposal includes mandatory reporting of source-level methane emissions estimated and, within two years, measurements of site-level methane emissions. It also establishes a verification system.
- Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR): Methane leaks are widespread in the oil and gas industry, as illustrated by the #CutMethaneEU campaign. The Commission’s proposal includes all the main requirements for efficient LDAR: mandatory LDAR every 3 months, with clear deadlines for repair and resurvey, and up-to-date technology requirements open to future innovation. To strengthen the proposal, LDAR could be made monthly instead of quarterly.
- Ban on routine venting and flaring: Natural gas flaring (controlled combustion of natural gas) and venting (direct release of natural gas into the atmosphere) have devastating environmental and health impact. It also represents an economic loss for companies, as the gas vented or flared could have otherwise been available for productive use. While the European Methane Strategy only mentioned that the Commission would consider a ban on venting and flaring, CATF is happy to see that the proposal explicitly bans venting and routine flaring, with a list of specific exceptions that are primarily driven by well-defined safety concerns.
- Abandoned and Unused Oil and Gas Wells: Europe counts many abandoned and unused wells which were improperly closed and continue to emit methane. For some of these wells, no owner can be identified and held accountable. CATF welcomes the inclusion of monitoring and reporting obligations for these wells as well as the obligation for Member States to implement a mitigation plan to remediate, reclaim and permanently plug their inactive wells.
The energy sector is the second largest emitter of methane, after agriculture, but deserves particular attention as the International Energy Agency estimates that 75% of its emissions can be mitigated using existing technology and at marginal cost. That makes it the lowest hanging fruit in climate policy.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires rapid and sustained reductions of emissions from methane and other non-CO2 short-lived climate pollutants, along with rapid and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions. This was the conclusion of the IPCC’s special report onGlobal Warming of 1.5 °C. It also is the conclusion of UNEP & Climate & Clean Air Coalition’s Global Methane Assessment. The science is incredibly clear that methane reductions are a crucial and pressing piece of the climate effort.
Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, EU, [email protected], +32 476-97-36-42
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world.