A holistic approach for Europe's Methane Strategy

In order to achieve the EU's emission reduction targets, we must ensure there is a business case for companies to make the green transition, writes Maria Spyraki.
Source: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Maria Spyraki

Maria Spyraki (EL, EPP) is a member of Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee

18 Mar 2021

While the European institutions and national governments have rightly recognised the potential of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, methane emissions remain overlooked. Methane is a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time period. The emissions from the EU’s oil and gas industry have a short-term climate impact equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from 30 coal-fired power plants like the one in Western Macedonia, which is now shutting down.

Because of its high global warming potential, methane is considered a priority under the European Green Deal. In order to reach Europe’s 2030 climate goal of reducing emissions by at least 55 percent, according to the European Commission’s proposal, we would need to reduce methane by a third. We need a “holistic” approach from the Commission if we are to successfully address the global warming impact of methane.

“We need a ‘holistic’ approach from the Commission if we are to successfully address the global warming impact of methane”

Therefore, the Commission’s Methane Strategy, unveiled in October last year, emphasised international cooperation before regulating emissions in sectors like energy and agriculture. The strategy shies away from imposing immediate measures that would force energy companies to detect and repair methane leaks throughout the oil and gas supply chain. However, the most cost-effective methane emission savings can be achieved in the energy sector. Upstream oil and gas operations generally have a variety of mitigation options that have no net costs, or near zero costs.

Major oil and gas companies must establish best practices to ensure the intensity of methane emission reductions. Last year, Shell called on EU policymakers to set “strong methane regulations” to repair leaks and cut emissions. Last November, 62 major oil and gas companies agreed to a new framework for monitoring, reporting and reducing methane emissions as part of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0. This is a welcome initiative, and we should therefore proceed with the energy transition without undermining the importance of the Europe’s energy sector. We need to facilitate our industry’s transition and provide incentives.

This new tracking and disclosure system introduces a voluntary comprehensive, measurement-based methane reporting framework that will make it easier to accurately track and compare the performance of companies. This will usher in a new era in Europe and beyond, ensuring that the oil and gas industry takes the initiatives needed to help us achieve our climate goals.

A clear commitment to measure, monitor and report is a fundamental first step for significantly reducing methane emissions. We therefore need to support the Commission’s plans for a legislative proposal on compulsory measurement, reporting and verification for all energy-related methane emissions.

In order to drive more effective results, it is important that the EU acts on a global level, making methane emissions reporting and verification more systematic at UN level as a valuable first step. According to the International Energy Agency, ‘’Around three-quarters of methane emissions could be reduced with existing technologies and close to half could be done at net-zero cost.”

We must also underline that by far the biggest proportion of these emissions are coming from third countries. Therefore, we should lead them in reducing their methane emissions by regulating imports and providing appropriate technologies to eliminate leaks in transportation.

“In order to drive more effective results, it is important that the EU acts on a global level, making methane emissions reporting and verification more systematic at UN level as a valuable first step”

In the agricultural sector, we need to analyse the life cycle of methane emissions. We need to examine livestock, manure and feed management, feed characteristics, new technologies and practice. We also need to incentivise the private sector to create an inventory of best practices and further develop technologies, in order to explore and promote the wider uptake of innovative mitigating actions.

It is also crucial that we provide solutions for addressing methane from enteric fermentation, such as a new dietary approach that also considers the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. In the waste sector, specifically in the review of the Landfill Directive in 2024, we need to improve the management of landfi ll gas, minimise its harmful climate effects, and harness any of its potential energy gains.

The production of biogas and biomethane in particular could help us decrease methane emissions from agriculture and waste, on the condition that methane emissions from the production and transport of low-carbon gases are minimised. In this regard, we have to provide new opportunities and incentivise our industry. Our responsibility is to create a business case environment in the agriculture sector, as well as to provide profitable activities in the waste sector.

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