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EU Policy. Member states green light new rules to slash methane emissions

David Goldman / AP
David Goldman / AP Copyright David Goldman/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright David Goldman/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Marta Pacheco
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The potent greenhouse gas will be regulated for the first time in the EU with implications overseas.

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EU countries adopted today (May 27) first-ever rules to measure, report and verify methane emissions in the energy sector in a bid to slash the volume of these short-lived air pollutants, known to be up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Following an almost unanimous vote, opposed by Hungary, energy operators will need to comply, as of 2025, with new requirements to ensure mitigation measures, such as detecting and repairing methane leaks, and measuring emissions at source level.

They will also be required to draw up monitoring reports that will be checked by independent accredited verifiers, according to the new rules, as well as carry out surveys of methane leaks in different types of infrastructures.

In cases where methane leak levels — due to aging infrastructure, poor maintenance or accidental damage — are above a certain threshold, energy operators will need to repair or replace within stipulated time limits.

Oil, gas and coal companies will need to carry out an inventory of closed, inactive, plugged and abandoned assets, such as wells and mines, to monitor their emissions.

Methane emissions deriving from EU energy imports will also be traced, as of 2027, since the new rules introduce global monitoring tools to increase transparency from oil, gas and coal entering the bloc.

“My task as one of the lead negotiators for the methane file will be to remind them [biggest oil and gas exporter states] of their obligation and to also tell them we will be watching you,” lawmaker Jutta Paulus (Germany/Greens) said during the COP28 in Dubai.

Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian minister for energy, said methane emissions were the “second most important greenhouse gas” to tackle in the fight against climate change and expressed confidence the new law will guarantee “proper monitoring” across the energy value chains.

“To meet the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and achieving climate neutrality by 2050, we must cut methane emissions in the oil, gas, and coal sectors,” said Van der Straeten.

Brandon Locke, Europe policy manager at Clean Air Task Force (CATF) welcomed today’s law as a “blueprint for other major importers” but warned the “work isn’t done”.

“The lion's share of the EU's energy emissions come from abroad, so the EU import standard has the potential to drive down 30% of methane emissions from oil and gas globally,” Locke told Euronews.

However, the devil will be in the details, Locke added, saying the methodology applied to calculate the emission limits, how it is implemented and enforced will be vital as well as how trading partners are engaged to proactively abate emissions before 2030.

Today’s final adoption by member states follows several inter-institutional negotiations, since the European Commission tabled the proposal in December 2021 under the so-called “Gas Package”, aimed at supporting the EU to reach climate neutrality by 2050. The Commission will assess the progress of the new rules in 2028.

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