BRUSSELS – One of the EU’s flagship climate legislations took a step forward today as ambitious measures aimed at methane emissions in the oil and gas sector – including measures on imports into the European Union – were agreed on by relevant committees in the European Parliament.
“The vote today puts the EU Methane Regulation back on track after its progress was undermined and disrupted over the past 12 months,” said Jonathan Banks, CATF’s Global Director, Methane Pollution Prevention. “But this is only one step in the right direction. The world is looking to Brussels for leadership and “okay” isn’t enough, especially when it comes to the oil and gas regulations.”
If confirmed in plenary, the version of the Methane Regulation approved today in the committees would require companies to detect and repair leaks in their operations, ban venting and flaring, as well as introduce performance standards for the sector, and a total emission reduction target to be set before 2026.
Parliament increased the ambition of the Commission’s proposal on key points, including increasing the frequency of leak detection inspections for aboveground components to every 2 months, which would currently be the strongest such requirement in the world.
Today’s agreement also added two new measures to the proposal. First, the Committees voted for the adoption of a binding 2030 methane emission reduction target covering all relevant emitting sectors, with the actual number to be defined later by the Commission in accordance with the EU commitment to the Global Methane Pledge. Second, the MEPs agreed today on a performance standard of 0.2% or below.
This would be the first methane performance standard in the world and if done properly could set a global precedent for how to mitigate methane in the oil and gas sector.
Importantly, it also included world-leading measures on imports of oil and gas. The MEPs agreed today on expanding the monitoring and reporting, leak detection and repair, and venting and flaring rules to the full value chain starting in 2026. As the large majority of emissions due to EU gas consumption actually take place outside of the EU borders, this extension of mitigation measures could have a major impact into cleaning up the value-chain and cutting methane globally. The EU’s gas imports market touches on over 51% of global production.
“We are looking at some of the best oil and gas methane measures in the world – if we can get them over the line,” said Alessia Virone, CATF’s EU Affairs Director. “The impact in terms of both reducing near-term warming and setting important precedents for methane mitigation to be integrated into the global trade of fossil fuels is worth fighting for.”
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and reducing its emissions is crucial for meeting the EU’s climate goals. With the invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s need to diversify oil and gas supply, methane has also emerged as a major energy security consideration. As the RePowerEU announcement showcased, reducing methane leaks around the world could help make up near-term shortfalls in energy for Europe while reducing global emissions – a win-win for the planet.
Polling conducted by CATF and YouGov at the height of the 2022 energy crisis found that Europeans overwhelmingly backed strong action on methane emissions, even if it meant an increase in household costs.
Amidst the energy crisis and shifting geopolitics, it has become clear that Europe needs a new approach to climate neutrality that also achieves long-term energy security and economic growth.
“Methane abatement has been one of the breakthrough issues in climate policy over the past five years, with its emergence onto the world stage at COP26 a galvanizing moment”, said Lee Beck, CATF’s Senior Director, Europe and Middle East. “European progress sets the stage for an evolution of global methane commitments and action at COP28, ideally with a cohesive strategy that gets buy-in and action from both major importers of oil and gas like Europe and exporters like the UAE”
The recommendations approved today now go to the rest of Parliament for full adoption, ahead of the trilogue phase. As the text that emerged from the Council of the European Union was extremely limited, strong Parliamentary backing of the agreed measures is crucial for ensuring that the final version of the legislation does not fall short.
Methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for 0.5°C of the warming the earth has experienced to date. Because of its potency — and its short lifespan compared to carbon dioxide — cutting methane pollution is the fastest way to slow the escalating rate of global warming. Scientists agree that we will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees or any target, without drastically cutting our anthropogenic methane emissions.
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.