In an effort to curb the global warming gas, methane, the EU has agreed upon new restrictions for emissions that will affect Europe’s energy industry as well as importers of oil and natural gas.
In regulations approved on Wednesday, oil, gas, and coal companies must monitor, detect, and repair methane leakings throughout the EU. These rules will also apply to importers of fossil energys starting in 2027. Importers must meet a maximum threshold for methane intensity by 2030. This threshold has yet to be determined.
The EU imports energy that emits up to eight-times more methane than the domestic production.
EU delegates also agreed that almost all venting or flaring of methane will be banned during oil and gas production. Operators must conduct leak detection and surveys in a year after the law comes into effect, once it has been formally approved by the European Parliament.
The EU’s move comes before the COP28 Climate Conference in the United Arab Emirates, later this month. The EU’s move follows an initiative led by the US to reduce global methane emission by 30% by 2030. This pledge was signed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 at the UN Climate Summit.
The EU set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
The EU negotiators, however, did not reach an agreement this week on a specific reduction target for methane in the energy sector, as demanded by the Parliament.
Methane accounts for approximately a third in global warming. It is more potent than carbon dioxide and has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere. It is therefore regarded as an easier way to reduce climate change.
The main component of gas is methane. It is released in large quantities during the production and distribution process of oil and natural gas. This is due to flaring or the burning of extra gas or poor infrastructure.
This practice is described as a “waste of money that has negative effects on climate change, human health and the environment”.
China, Russia, and India, the world’s three biggest polluters of methane, did not sign the global methane commitment, but China took a small step last week, agreeing to monitor leakage.
JuttaPaulus, a Green MP and the lead negotiator for the agreement of the European Parliament said that the bloc agreement is essential in putting pressure on countries to improve their targets on climate change at COP28.
She said: “From a purely political perspective, it is important that we go to the COP with our hands full, showing we are tackling methane and also looking beyond our own borders, because, as you know, most of our energy comes from abroad.”
Peter Clarke said that he didn’t expect the new rules would significantly hinder US imports into Europe. He was speaking at an industry conference in London. US oil and gas giants are not responsible for the majority of methane leaks. This is mostly attributed to smaller operators.
“All the progress made in reducing emissions is positive for the gas industry.” “It delivers what we are selling, which lower-intensity greenhouse gas fuel, and removes coal from the picture,” said he.