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The European Commission presented today an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions. Methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide. It is also a potent local air pollutant causing serious health problems. Tackling methane emissions is therefore essential to reaching our 2030 climate targets and the 2050 climate neutrality goal, as well as contributing to the Commission's zero-pollution ambition.
The strategy sets out measures to cut methane emissions in Europe and internationally. It presents legislative and non-legislative actions in the energy, agriculture and waste sectors, which account for around 95% of methane emissions associated with human activity worldwide. The Commission will work with the EU's international partners and with industry to achieve emission reductions along the supply chain.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal, said, “To become the first climate-neutral continent, the European Union will have to cut all greenhouse gases. Methane is the second most powerful greenhouse gas and an important cause of air pollution. Our methane strategy ensures emissions cuts in all sectors, especially agriculture, energy, and waste. It also creates opportunities for rural areas to produce biogas from waste. The European Union's satellite technology will enable us to closely monitor emissions and help raise international standards.”
Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, said: “We have adopted today our first strategy to tackle methane emissions since 1996. While the energy, agriculture and waste sectors all have a role to play, energy is where emissions can be cut the quickest with least costs. Europe will lead the way, but we cannot do this alone. We need to work with our international partners to address the methane emissions of the energy we import.”
Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, said: “Methane is one of the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, driving the climate crisis and air pollution globally. We are excited to work with the EU on this new strategy to reduce methane emissions in Europe and internationally. We have the solutions, and together with all our partners, we can make significant cuts to protect the climate, human health, and livelihoods.”
One of the priorities under the strategy is to improve measurement and reporting of methane emissions. The level of monitoring currently varies between sectors and Member States and across the international community. In addition to EU-level measures to step up measurement, verification and reporting standards, the Commission will support the establishment of an international methane emission observatory in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the International Energy Agency. The EU's Copernicus satellite programme will also improve surveillance and help to detect global super-emitters and identify major methane leaks.
To reduce methane emissions in the energy sector, an obligation to improve detection and repair of leaks in gas infrastructure will be proposed and legislation to prohibit routine flaring and venting practices will be considered. The Commission will engage in a dialogue with its international partners and explore possible standards, targets or incentives for energy imports to the EU, and the tools for enforcing them.
The Commission will improve reporting of emissions from agriculture through better data collection, and promote opportunities to reduce emissions with support from the Common Agricultural Policy. The main focus will be on best practice sharing for innovative methane-reducing technologies, animal diets, and breeding management. Targeted research on technology, nature based solutions and dietary shift will also contribute. Non-recyclable organic human and agricultural waste and residue streams can be utilised to produce biogas, bio-materials and bio-chemicals. This can generate additional revenue streams in rural areas and avoid methane emissions at the same time. The collection of these waste products will therefore be further incentivised.
The Commission plans to deliver emissions reductions from agriculture by working with the CCAC's Agriculture Initiative and Scientific Advisory Panel to establish an expert group to analyse life-cycle methane emissions metrics. Planned for the first half of 2021, the expert group would identify metrics and methodologies for quantifying life cycle impacts of emissions from livestock.
In the waste sector, the Commission will consider further action to improve the management of landfill gas, harnessing its potential for energy use while reducing emissions, and will review the relevant legislation on landfill in 2024. Minimising the disposal of biodegradable waste in landfills is crucial to avoid methane formation. The Commission will also consider proposing further research on waste to biomethane technologies.
The Commission will also review the Effort Sharing Regulation and will consider expanding the scope of the Industrial Emissions Directive to cover methane emitting sectors not yet included in its scope.
According to the strategy, the EU will also take international action to tackle methane emissions in the energy, agriculture and waste sectors by building on existing partnerships in international fora, such as through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Arctic Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
On a molecular level, methane is more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming our planet. It contributes to tropospheric ozone formation, a potent local air pollutant which causes serious health problems. At the end of its lifecycle, methane is transformed into carbon dioxide and water vapour, contributing further to climate change. Reducing methane emissions therefore contributes to both slowing down climate change and improving air quality.
The Impact Assessment for the EU's 2030 Climate Target Plan concluded that stepping up the level of ambition for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions to at least 55% by 2030 would require an accelerated effort to tackle methane emissions. While the EU produces 5% of global methane emissions domestically, it will encourage international action as the largest global importer of energy and as a strong player in the agriculture and waste sectors.
A key aspect of the Commission's work on methane internationally is through partnerships and initiatives. As such, the Commission and the EU more widely is actively involved in several international initiatives on reducing methane emissions, including through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Under the CCAC Mineral Methane Initiative, the Commission is involved in an ambitious methane emissions measurement and reporting framework, as part of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership. The Commission also contributes to the global methane science studies that aim to address a lack of global measurement data in the oil and gas sector. The Commision's International Methane Emission Observatory, to be established with UNEP, CCAC and the International Energy Agency, will collect and verify methane emissions data to provide the international community with an improved understanding of global emissions and where abatement action should be focused.
The original European Commision press release can be found here.
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