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News 08 May 2023

European Parliament urges immediate action to cut methane emissions from energy sector

On 26 April, the European Parliament’s Environment (ENVI) and Industry (ITRE) committees, responsible for regulating methane emissions reduction in the energy sector, adopted their position on the European Commission’s proposal of last 15 December 2021 on the matter. The stance is detailed in a report that includes provisions to cut methane emissions deriving from the oil, fossil, and coal sectors and biomethane once injected into the gas network. In addition, the parliamentary groups expressed their intention to include the petrochemical sector in the scope of the legislation.

Cutting methane emissions in the energy sector is crucial to achieving the EU decarbonization objectives, as shown in the latest IEA update of its Global Methane Tracker. Indeed, in 2022 the global energy industry was responsible for 135 million tonnes of methane released into the atmosphere, accounting for around 40% of total methane emissions attributable to human activity.
As methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, reducing methane emissions is one of the most effective ways to limit global warming and improve air quality in the near term. Contrary to other cases where clean technologies are still to be fully developed, methane emissions from oil and gas alone could be reduced by 75% with existing technologies.

The European Parliament’s committees highlighted, then, in the aforementioned report, the actions that could easily be taken to reduce methane emissions significantly by 2030. First and foremost, MEPs urged the European Commission to propose a binding 2030 reduction target for EU methane emissions for all relevant sectors by the end of 2025. In addition, they called for strengthening the obligations to repair methane leaks, increasing the frequency of leak detection and repair surveys, and imposing a ban on the venting and flaring of methane, ensuring safety for workers in coal mines. Lastly, MEPs claimed that imports of fossil energy must also be covered, as they make up over 80% of the oil and gas consumed in the EU. While initially the proposal refrained from including importers under its scope, deputies argued that it is indeed necessary for achieving EU’s climate targets. Thus, MEPs proposed that from 2026 onwards, importers of coal, oil and gas will have to demonstrate that the imported fossil energy respects the requirement set in the regulation.

The draft text will need to be approved in European Parliament’s plenary on 8 May before interinstitutional negotiations can start. Negotiations are foreseen to be tense. In fact, while several NGOs and industry associations, including Eurogas, expressed their support for the European Parliament’s take, Member States seem to have diverging views. In the general approach reached in December, indeed, EU energy ministers had shown the intention of lowering the law’s initial ambition, in open contrast with the European Parliament’s position.