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Expert Briefing

EU Import Measures Hold the Key to Dramatic Reduction in Global Methane Pollution

The EU is the world’s largest importer of oil and gas, putting it in a unique position to leverage its buying power and climate ambition to drastically reduce global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. As policymakers work to finalize the EU Methane Regulation, there is tremendous potential to reduce methane pollution globally by including a strong methane import standard.

What can an ambitious methane import
standard achieve?

1/3 oil and gas emissions reduced
20% progress toward global methane pledge
10 million lives improved


The time is now for Member States to back the European Parliament’s position on measures aimed at oil and gas imports. European policymakers must turn words into actions, and reduce the harmful effects of methane pollution.

The EU could cut global methane pollution with just one piece of legislation

The tremendous potential of a methane import standard:

  • With a methane import standard included, the Methane Regulation has the potential to reduce almost a third (30%) of global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, which represents 7% of all man-made methane emissions globally.
  • If these reductions are accomplished by 2030, they represent a 20% progress towards achieving the Global Methane Pledge goal which was spearheaded by EU leaders.  
  • Including an import standard would reduce 20 times more methane emissions than a regulation covering only domestic EU oil and gas production.
  • The amount of gas saved would represent €54 billion in savings to exporting partner countries and €1 billion for oil and gas producing countries within the EU
  • The total gas saved – 90 billion cubic meters (bcm) – represents almost the entire yearly consumption of Germany (94 bcm), which is the highest consumer of gas in the EU and one of the largest importers of gas in the world.
  • An import standard would improve the lives of almost 10 million people living within 5km of flares in EU supply countries.

4 other steps policymakers need to take

Smart methane policy can rapidly reduce emissions in Europe and around the world. An import standard is not the only thing policymakers can do:

1. Comprehensive Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) Program

These programs require operators to regularly survey all of their facilities for leaks and improper emissions, and repair all the leaks they identify in a reasonable time. Most leaks are straightforward to repair, and finding leaks has become efficient with modern technology. An efficient EU LDAR legislation would make monthly or quarterly instrument-based leak detection mandatory, or push for continuous monitoring with advanced technologies. Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, emissions from leaks can be cut by 90% with monthly inspections or 80% with quarterly inspections.

2. Ban on Routine Venting and Flaring

Methane venting and flaring are controlled releases of greenhouse gasses that are part of routine operations from the oil and gas sector. Routine venting and flaring are the largest methane sources and should be banned, with clearly defined exceptions for safety and emergency reasons. Rules prohibiting venting of natural gas can easily reduce emissions by 95%.

3. Regulations on Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV)

A robust and scientifically rigorous Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) system is necessary to identify issues as well as to assess the progress achieved by other methane curbing legislation. Emissions monitoring should rely on a comprehensive equipment survey, granular, detailed reports, and application of the most up-to-date emission factors on the whole EU oil and gas supply chain. Reporting should include detailed emissions information and not just overall aggregate emissions at the country or asset level. And finally, third-party verification will be needed on emissions from fossil gas imported to the EU.

4. Dealing with Abandoned and Unused Oil and Gas Wells

We do not know the total number of abandoned wells in Europe. Wells that have been improperly closed have been found to emit a continuous stream of methane. The issue of abandoned and unused wells is complicated by the difficulty in identifying which companies own them or are responsible for them. A separate program on methane mitigation for abandoned wells should be established to ensure finding, sealing, and monitoring of these wells. Such a program could lead to substantial reductions in methane emissions from abandoned wells as well as employment opportunities.

Dive deeper into CATF’s methane policy recommendations.

the data is in

Methane pollution is a problem across Europe – and Europeans want action now

Survey Shows Widespread Support for Methane Regulations

European citizens from France, Italy, Germany, and Poland strongly support tough regulations to reduce methane emissions 

CATF found widespread support for strong methane regulations among Europeans after conducting a first-of-its-kind cross-national survey of public attitudes toward regulating methane in the energy sector. 

Roadmap for the Development of an EU Methane Import Standard

The EU imports 90% of the gas and 97% of the oil it consumes, which means that by implementing a rigorous import standard for these fossil fuels, the EU can take steps to drive methane reduction among its trade partners, reducing the global emissions associated with Europe’s gas consumption.

The EU’s Opportunity to Curb Flaring Pollution and Protect Millions

In this study, Clean Air Task Force shows that oil and gas imports to the European Union expose nearly 10 million people to an avoidable practice known as flaring, which is known to release high levels of harmful chemicals. Through a strong methane import standard, the EU can dent global flaring emissions and decrease the health risk of nearby populations.

It Happens Here Too: Methane Pollution in Europe’s Oil and Gas Network

800+ methane emission sources identified around Europe highlights need for strong EU Methane Regulation

CATF visited over 430 oil and gas sites between February 2021 and March 2023, documenting 881 sources of methane emissions across 15 countries.

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