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EU climate ambitions undermined by the huge hidden methane emissions of its fossil fuel imports

LONDON: The European Union’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 is being significantly undermined by its status as one of the world’s biggest drivers of global methane emissions.

Released ahead of an anticipated European Parliament vote on the EU Methane Regulation next month, analysis by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in the new report Hidden Harm: Exposing the methane emissions associated with EU’s fossil fuel imports shines a light on the climate impacts of coal, oil and gas produced for the European market.

Despite domestic production, the EU relies heavily on fossil fuels from elsewhere, importing 70 per cent of the coal, 90 per cent of the gas and 97 per cent of the oil it uses. It relies so heavily on gas imports that it consumes more than half of all globally traded gas.

Hidden Harm estimates that methane emissions associated with fossil fuel imports from the major exporters to the EU in 2020 were 8,083,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 202 million tonnes of carbon dioxide or the annual emissions of 54 coal-fired power plants.

EIA Climate Campaigner Kim O’Dowd said: “We cannot afford this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to emissions in a world already firmly in the grip of runaway climate change.

“It’s a damning state of affairs that the European Commission, in its proposal for an EU Methane Regulation, has abjectly failed to include meaningful measures to reduce methane emissions from imported fossil fuels.”

Human-driven methane emissions have contributed to approximately 25 per cent of the global warming experienced today and arise from three main sectors – energy, agriculture and waste.

Research indicates that cutting methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 could prevent 255,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as increasing global crop yields by 26 million tonnes a year.

O’Dowd added: “Methane is emitted across the entire supply chain, particularly upstream before it arrives in the EU. This comes from unintentional leaks and from the common practices of venting and flaring fossil gas. The EU needs to face up to the fact that these emissions are a direct result of its energy consumption.”

Hidden Harm concludes that the EU Methane Regulation must be strengthened to ensure that the bloc does more to tackle methane emissions arising from its energy imports.

This would include making it a condition of access to the EU markets that importers put in place mandatory obligations on leak detection and repair, venting and flaring and also technology standards, all supported by a robust monitoring, reporting and verification framework.

In March, the European Parliament is expected to vote on draft amendments to the Regulation, which include addressing fossil fuel imports.



  • Kim O’Dowd, EIA Climate Campaigner, via kimodowd[at]
  • Paul Newman, EIA Senior Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
  2. Read and download Hidden Harm at


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