The European Commission has released today a half-hearted Methane Regulation, letting off the hook imports and walking back from EU climate goals, say leading environmental groups.
Methane emissions are responsible for 25% of the global warming of the planet, and are 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Tackling the energy sector has been identified as the most cost effective way of reducing our methane emissions, while being the main contributor to the rapid acceleration of atmospheric methane.
With this regulation, the European Commission puts in place a framework with obligations on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV), leak detection and repair (LDAR) and a ban on routine and flaring (BRVF), which are the three main pillars of effective methane emissions mitigations.
Despite numerous calls from European policymakers and recommendations from leading NGOs, the regulation lacks a key element: extending the framework to all oil, gas and coal consumed in the EU, imports included, and to the petrochemical sector. The EU imports over 80% of the fossil gas it consumes, 90% of the crude oil and 40% of the coal, long after methane has been emitted outside EU borders.
“The Commission is hiding behind excuses. With this regulation, the EU will continue to drive global methane emissions in third countries, turning a blind eye to its role,” says Kim O’Dowd, Climate Campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency. “In the context of the Global Methane Pledge adopted at CoP26, the EU should be irreproachable but this proposal sends completely wrong message, basically that it is okay for the EU and other countries to pledge and pontificate at the podium and then dally and dither at home.” adds Kim O’Dowd.
Any methane reduction initiative that is not linked to a phase-out of fossil fuels falls dangerously short of needed climate action. In October, MEPs asked in a resolution on the EU strategy to reduce methane emissions to phase-out all fossil fuels as soon as possible, but today’s proposal ignores the Parliament’s position. As a major fossil gas and oil importer, the EU needs to work on cutting methane emissions along the whole supply chain and, in the meantime, implement phase-out plans to get rid of oil, fossil gas and coal. There is no way the EU can cut methane emissions fast enough and promote a sustainable energy transition, while still investing in climate-wracking fossil fuels. Fossil gas consists almost entirely of methane, it pollutes our air and water with numerous hazardous substances and contributes to environmental destruction on top of inherently leading to methane emissions. While cutting methane emissions is important to reduce the climate impact of fossil fuels, it risks being used to support false sustainability claims by the oil and gas companies
“Fossil gas, even with reduced methane emissions, is neither clean nor a “bridge fuel”, and the Commission proposal fails to make this clear. All gas infrastructure is prone to leaks, and a serious methane law should stop the development of new fossil gas infrastructure like pipelines and LNG terminals”, says Enrico Donda, Campaigner at Food & Water Action Europe.
The European Parliament must now protect the ambition it showed in its own initiative report on the Methane Strategy, which called for extending the framework across the supply and to the petrochemical sector. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the Council of the European Union will now have the opportunity to improve the proposal. Leading NGOs call on MEPs and Council to help deliver a methane regulation that supports, not hinders, nothing less than a livable future on our planet.
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