Fit for 55: MEPs aim to boost methane emission reductions 

12 May 2023

Earlier this week, the European Parliament adopted its position on a new law targeting methane emissions reduction from the energy sector, aiming to achieve the EU’s climate goals and improve air quality. This law, the first of its kind in the EU, focuses on reducing methane emissions from the oil, fossil gas, coal, and biomethane sectors. Members of Parliament (MEPs) also propose including the petrochemicals sector in the scope of the new rules.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about one-third of current global warming. It originates from various sectors, with agriculture, waste, and energy accounting for the majority of EU methane emissions. The EU has committed to the Global Methane Pledge, aiming to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. This legislative action aligns with citizens’ expectations for a faster and more effective transition to a green economy. The EU Parliament urges the European Commission to propose a binding 2030 reduction target for methane emissions from all relevant sectors by the end of 2025. Additionally, Member States are expected to establish national reduction targets as part of their integrated national energy and climate plans.

The obligations to detect and repair methane leaks will be strengthened under the new law. Operators will be required to submit a methane leak detection and repair programme to national authorities within six months of the regulation’s entry into force. MEPs demand more frequent leak detection and repair surveys and stricter obligations to repair leaks promptly. Further, the EU Parliament is supportive of banning the venting and flaring of methane from drainage stations by 2025 and from ventilation shafts by 2027, thereby ensuring the safety of coal mine workers. It also obliges EU countries to establish mitigation plans for abandoned coal mines and inactive oil and fossil gas wells. Imported fossil energy will also be subject to the new regulations. Starting in 2026, importers of coal, oil, and gas will be required to demonstrate compliance with the regulation’s requirements. Exceptions will be made for imports from countries that have similar methane emissions standards.

Jutta Paulus, the rapporteur, emphasises the importance of ambitious methane reduction measures and energy sovereignty in Europe. She highlights that significant emissions can be avoided through simple measures in the energy sector without significant investments. As Europe heavily relies on imported fossil fuels, expanding the regulation’s scope to energy imports is crucial.

The legislation was adopted by the European Parliament with a majority of 499 votes in favor, 73 against, and 55 abstentions. Negotiations with the Council will now commence to finalise the text of the legislation.