Energy and petrochemical sectors must not be let off the hook in plan to cut EU methane emissions

As the European Commission today released its long-awaited EU Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions in the struggle against global warming, EIA urged it to beef up its limited commitments in the energy sector.

It also urgently needs to address its near-complete omission of the petrochemical industry – a sector which plays a huge role in methane emissions.

Tim Grabiel, our Senior Lawyer, warned that the strategy cannot be allowed to fail nor to be half-hearted – and it absolutely must not sweep the role of EU consumption in the energy and petrochemical sectors under the rug.

Methane is the main component in fossil gas and contributes towards a quarter of the global warming experienced today.

Fourteen years after a first bid for a European methane emissions strategy failed, this new attempt identifies measures to address methane emissions in the energy, agricultural and waste sectors.

In particular, the EU’s energy sector plays an outsized role in global methane emissions, with gas comprising a quarter of the EU energy mix and the EU importing more than half of all globally traded gas; almost three-quarters of those imports come from Russia (40 per cent), Norway (18 per cent) and Algeria (11 per cent).

“The EU squandered more than a decade in the fight against methane emissions because it lacked the resolve to compel action within and beyond its borders,” said Grabiel. “This time it must require methane mitigation across the supply chain, leveraging access to the world’s largest gas market as the hook.”

The Strategy makes a legislative commitment in the energy sector to submit a proposal in 2021 to require monitoring, reporting and verification and to improve leakage detection and repair but it stops short of a clear commitment to apply those obligations across the entire supply chain, including to imports.

Other measures will only be considered, such as eliminating routine venting and flaring, methane emission reduction targets or standards or other incentives on fossil energy consumed and imported into the EU.

The new Strategy also omits any mention of methane emissions from the petrochemical industry. Petrochemicals, such as naphtha and natural gas liquids, are used as the raw materials to produce plastics and are co-products of oil and gas production and processing, which is where significant methane emissions occur.

“For all the progress made elsewhere on plastics, ‘surprising’ is too modest a word for the near complete omission of the petrochemical contribution to methane emissions,” said Clare Perry, our Climate Campaigns Leader. “The Commission must not sweep the role of the petrochemical industry under the rug in the struggle against climate change.

“The European Parliament and Council must be presented with ambitious proposals and thereafter act ambitiously. There is still a chance for the Commission to lead and avoid another missed political opportunity to do what needs to be done.”