European Parliament votes for an EU Methane Regulation to tackle energy sector emissions

Members of the European Parliament today adopted the EU Methane Regulation, the first ever EU legislation to target this super-pollutant in the energy sector.

Methane ranks as the second most important greenhouse gas, 82 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period, and responsible for about a third of the warming experienced today.

According to the International Energy Agency, curbing methane emissions is the most effective means available for limiting global warming in the near term.

Methane flaring

In November 2023, EU policymakers reached a political agreement on the EU Methane Regulation which, to enter into force, must be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.

The European Parliament’s vote today was approved with 530 votes in favour and 63 votes against, putting the EU one step closer to making it law.

Kim O’Dowd, Climate Campaigner at the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said: “Methane has long been overlooked. While the ultimate goal remains the phase-out of fossil fuels, swift action to address methane emissions from this sector is crucial for the EU to achieve its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.”

The new Regulation establishes a framework for monitoring and mitigating methane emissions within the EU. It particularly focuses on accurately gathering data, which has been grossly underreported to date, and implementing measures to reduce leaks and regulate routine venting and flaring practices.

However, the EU falls short in addressing the methane emissions arising from imported oil, gas and coal.

O’Dowd added: “Some 75-90 per cent of methane emissions associated with fossil fuels consumed in the EU occur before they reach EU borders. What we needed were mitigation measures across the entire supply chain, but instead policymakers opted for an undefined and untested methane intensity standard to be enforced by 2030, which is too late and, if past experience is anything to go by, likely too ineffective in addressing emissions from fossil fuel imports.”

EIA and other NGOs had called for an extension of the regulatory framework to imports. For a detailed analysis of the EU Methane Regulation’s content, please refer to the briefing published by EIA today.

While today’s adoption marks a significant milestone, the work on the Regulation is far from over. The European Commission must now release a series of implementing acts to build it out.

“The EU is liable for the emissions emitted outside its borders when they are associated with its consumption,” said O’Dowd. “If the Commission is serious about the EU’s responsibility in the fight against climate change, it will have to improve the Regulation via its implementing acts. We at EIA will make sure that the message reaches the next Commission.”