EU Methane Strategy: Prospects for a secure horizon

When pursuing our global climate ambitions, if we are to reach our goal it is vital that we have an adequate and effective strategy to deal with methane emissions, writes Marcos Ros Sempere.
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By Marcos Ros Sempere

Marcos Ros Sempere (ES, S&D) is the S&D shadow rapporteur on the EU strategy to reduce methane emissions

19 Mar 2021

The European Union’s strategy to reduce methane emissions, in line with the European Green Deal ambitions of achieving its decarbonisation objectives, has set a minimum target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 55 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Under current policies to reduce non-CO2 emissions, the EU’s methane emissions are projected to decrease by 29 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. To reach the overall reduction target of 55 percent, the reduction in methane emissions will need to increase from 35 percent to 37 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

In its proposals, the European Commission outlines the main sectoral and cross-sectoral measures required to achieve the emission reduction targets, targeting the main methane-emitting sectors of energy, agriculture, and waste.

These proposals consist of an improved reporting and monitoring system for emissions in all sectors concerned, creating an international methane emissions observatory to map global anthropogenic methane emissions, using the Copernicus programme’s satellite detection technology to strengthen the monitoring of so-called “super emitters”.

There will also be specific support for the acceleration of the development of biogas from sustainable sources. This will be accompanied by analysis and potential updates of relevant environmental and climate legislation to address methane emissions more effectively.

“External carbon and methane emissions associated with the EU’s consumption of imported fossil gas are three to eight times higher than those produced within the EU”

Ultimately, this should culminate in the possibility of new legislation to eliminate direct venting into the atmosphere and routine flaring in the energy sector - covering the entire supply chain, production, and end product. Last will be the use of renewable gases in those sectors where electrification is not feasible, inefficient or more costly.

This is why the European Commission aims to accelerate the development of the biogas market from sustainable sources, such as biomethane. The Commission plans to adopt legislative proposals in the energy sector for monitoring, reporting and verification, on improving leak detection and repair, as well as other measures in the area of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership and mining basins in transition.

In the field of agriculture, the sector with the second-greatest potential for reducing methane emissions, it is proposed to analyse the parameters for measuring methane emissions. These will also be inventories of best practices and available technologies carried out, the implementation of digital carbon navigators by 2022, and specific mitigation technologies, in collaboration with Horizon Europe, promoting specific research areas.

In addition, it has potential synergies to mitigate these emissions through the production of biogas from agricultural waste, thereby reducing dependence on fossil fuels. It can also generate additional incomes for livestock farmers and opportunities for development and investment in rural areas, as demonstrated by the Commission in its proposal. This would see the creation of a pilot project to support rural areas and farming communities through the construction of biogas projects and access to suitable funds.

“The Methane Strategy emphasises that the EU, as the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels, has both the responsibility and the capacity to promote the reduction of global energy-related methane emissions”

On waste, the revision of the Landfill Directive in 2024 and the inclusion of specific research in Horizon Europe are being envisaged. The Methane Strategy emphasises that the EU, as the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels, has both the responsibility and the capacity to promote the reduction of global energy-related methane emissions. External carbon and methane emissions associated with the EU’s consumption of imported fossil gas are three to eight times higher than those produced within the EU.

The Commission is therefore proposing measures within the framework of transparency, regulation, as well as detection and warning, in its cooperation with international partners.The European Parliament will work on this report from the perspective of balancing and guaranteeing citizens’ rights (relating to consumption and the environment) against the rights of energy, agriculture, livestock and waste producers.

It will see that the measures are sufficient and ambitious enough to achieve the reduction targets set. It will also ensure that the measures affecting the sectors concerned are accompanied by instruments for compensation and support for the transition, particularly in the social objectives of employment and economic activation.

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Energy & Climate
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