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EU import measures hold the key to deep reductions in global methane pollution 

October 9, 2023 Work Area: Methane

BRUSSELS – New analysis by Clean Air Task Force (CATF) of the immense potential impact of the EU Methane Regulation showcases why European policymakers should back the European Parliament’s position on measures aimed at oil and gas imports.  

CATF analysis shows that the inclusion of a methane import standard within the regulation could lead to more than a 30% reduction in global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, which currently represents 7% of all man-made methane emissions worldwide. Achieving these reductions by 2030 would constitute 20% of the necessary progress towards fulfilling the Global Methane Pledge’s ambitious goal. 

“These facts underscore a clear message to European legislators: import standards cannot be ignored if the EU aspires to be a global leader in the crucial fight against methane pollution,” said Alessia Virone, EU Government Affairs Director. “Considering the enormous climate and energy security benefits, it’s crucial to start building an import standard now, and not kick the can down the road.”

Notably, the inclusion of an import standard would have a seismic impact compared to a regulation solely focused on domestic EU oil and gas production. In fact, it could result in reducing methane emissions roughly 20 times more effectively.

“The EU can either make a dent or a crater in cutting global methane emissions” said Brandon Locke, Europe Policy Manager, Methane Pollution Prevention. “If it wants to regain leadership on climate and drive change globally, it is imperative that Parliament’s position on this aspect of the Regulation is adopted in trilogues.” 

Particularly in context of continued uncertainty around Europe’s energy security and heightened concerns around the rising cost of living within the bloc, the economic implications of this regulation are also substantial:  

  • Implementing an import standard would translate to a staggering €54 billion in savings for exporting partner countries, while EU member states with oil and gas production would save an impressive €1 billion.  
  • In total, the proposed regulation could save 90 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas – nearly the entire annual consumption of Germany, the highest gas consumer in the EU and one of the world’s leading gas importers. 

“The import focus in the EU’s methane regulation is a first of its kind, and as with anything first of its kind, there are many who say it simply can’t be done,” said Jonathan Banks, Global Director, Methane Pollution Prevention. “While it may not be easy, it’s extremely clear there are no insuperable legal obstacles standing in the way of European policymakers – if they don’t take the enormous emissions reduction opportunity in front of them, it will be for political or ideological reasons.” 

CATF and Carbon Limits convened a range of legal and technical experts to outline possible implementation scenarios for an EU methane import standard, the summary of our findings can be found here. As the large majority of emissions from EU gas consumption take place outside of the EU borders, the extension of mitigation measures could have a major impact in terms of cleaning up the value-chain and cutting methane globally. The EU’s gas imports market touches on over 51% of global production. 

CATF and YouGov polling indicates that measures on imports are highly popular with Europeans, with 90% of respondents calling for rules for export countries. Even when the introduction of such measures would increase household energy costs, 67% of respondents supported or strongly supported the idea.  

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.  

Press Contact  

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.

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