This proposed law, the first of its kind, would compel coal, oil, and gas companies to report their methane emissions and take steps to reduce them. These measures include identifying and repairing leaks, as well as restricting wasteful practices such as venting and flaring gas by 2027.
Jutta Paulus, a German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing the Green grouping and a contributor to the proposal, stated, “Finally, the EU tackles the second most important greenhouse gas with ambitious measures. Less methane emissions mean more climate protection and more energy sovereignty.”
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with over 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, although it does not persist as long in the atmosphere. Reducing methane emissions is considered an effective and relatively low-cost method for mitigating the short-term impacts of extreme weather events driven by climate change.
The new EU regulations, endorsed by the European Parliament and European Council on Wednesday, mandate that fossil fuel companies address leaks within five days of detection and fully rectify them within a month. By the end of next year, operators must assess their existing facilities and submit action plans for identifying and mitigating methane leaks.
The rules will also apply to imported fuels, setting a higher standard for fossil fuel companies globally. An analysis by the environmental nonprofit Clean Air Task Force found that global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector could drop by 30% if international suppliers adhered to the same standards as domestic ones.
Brandon Locke, a methane expert at the Clean Air Task Force, said, “Considering the prospect of an import standard was nothing more than a dream a year ago, this outcome is a major step forward. While we preferred a faster timeline to reduce emissions before 2030, this agreement will nonetheless go a long way to dramatically cut global methane pollution.”
Methane emissions, responsible for approximately one-third of global warming since the Industrial Revolution, escape into the atmosphere from fossil fuel infrastructure, agricultural operations, and landfills. According to the International Energy Agency, more than 75% of methane emissions from oil and gas operations and half of emissions from coal can be mitigated using existing technology, often at a low cost.