European Council votes on the EU Methane Regulation – but it’s a big miss for people and the planet

A first version of the text for a new EU regulation to clamp down on methane emissions is “devoid of substance”, according to EIA Climate campaigners.

One year after the European Commission released its proposal for a Methane Regulation on emissions-reduction in the energy sector, the European Council today (19 December) adopted a first position on the text.

But after months of discussions and negotiations, the Czech Presidency put forward a text devoid of substance.

Flaring on a rig in the North Sea

EIA Climate Campaigner Kim O’Dowd said: “If the text that the Council is proposing goes through, it will dramatically impact the amount of methane emissions that this Regulation would cut.”

The new regulation aims to monitor and mitigate methane emissions from the oil, gas, and coal sectors, but member states have amended the text to water down action on mitigation, specifically by creating loopholes and increasing timeframes between inspections for leak detection and repair programmes – some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce methane emissions.

O’Dowd said: “The text in its current, diluted form would mean leaving aside any meaningful measures that could actually help the EU’s goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent.

“Methane leaks are not just a threat to our environment – they also have considerable effects on human health. As it stands, this is a big miss for people and the planet.”

But leak detection and repair are not the only provisions that have been watered down; the Council also weakened the articles on monitoring and reporting, venting and flaring and measures relating to coal.

Infrared camera used to detect methane leaks

“This text is unacceptable,” said O’Dowd. “Countries such as Canada or the US, which are major producers of oil and gas, have put forward much more ambitious regulations. This threatens the leadership the EU has been taking on the international stage, notably with the launch of the Global Methane Pledge at CoP26.

“The Council has also missed the opportunity to correct the Commission’s mistakes in the initial text.

“The most significant shortcoming of the text proposed by the Commission was the absence of any meaningful measures on imports. When the EU imports 90 per cent of the gas and 97 per cent of the oil it consumes, most methane emissions associated with its consumption are emitted long before reaching the bloc’s borders.

“This means that tackling the EU’s methane emissions means addressing them along the whole supply chain, including imports. Despite some calls from a few member states, the Council failed to correct that mistake and did not extend the framework to imports.”

The text is still being examined by the European Parliament, which will hopefully show more ambition than the Council before entering a negotiations phase between the Council and the Parliament.