Reducing methane emissions is the fastest way to slow the rate of global warming now, even as we decarbonise our energy systems.
It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.
Reducing methane emissions is critical, not just on a national scale, but on a global scale – where Europe is uniquely positioned to lead.
Climate impacts on people and nature are worsening in every corner of the globe. Slowing today’s unprecedented rate of warming can help avert our most acute climate risks, including crop loss, wildfires, extreme weather and rising sea levels. But our window of opportunity is closing. We need fast solutions.
Acting now to reduce methane emissions will have immediate benefits that reductions in carbon dioxide cannot provide on their own.
Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere, and its atmospheric concentrations are increasing faster now than at any time since the 1980s.
At least 25% of today’s warming is driven by methane from human actions.
There are readily available solutions to cut methane today, and some of the fastest, most cost-effective opportunities are in the fossil fuel sector.
As the world’s largest fossil gas importer, Europe is uniquely positioned to set the gold standard for methane mitigation and drive down emissions not only in Europe, but globally.
The European Union recognised this when it led more than 100 countries in signing the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030.
To fulfil this pledge and achieve its own 2030 climate targets, the European Commission recently proposed legislation to reduce its methane footprint from the energy sector.
The EU Methane Regulation, currently under consideration, can deliver on its promises by strengthening action in 4 key areas.
1) Step up monitoring and reporting
Europe must make use of the new digital technologies at its disposal to monitor methane emissions based on direct measurements both within and outside of its borders and in alignment with Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 standards.
New technology, such as the advanced methane-tracking satellite, MethaneSAT, will usher in a new era of reporting for climate transparency and accountability.
2) Plug leaks
The bulk of methane emissions from oil and gas comes from persistent leaks. To plug its leaks, Europe needs to enforce leak detection and repair requirements in-line with best international practice, with enough frequency to capture all leaks, including stochastic and unpredictable super-emitters.
3) End flaring and venting
Routine venting and flaring is the harmful practice of burning or releasing methane into the atmosphere.
Capturing the billions of cubic metres of fossil gas wasted through venting and flaring can also help reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas.
4) Limit methane in imported gas
Europe’s external methane emissions footprint is up to 8x larger than its domestic footprint, so any plan that does not address imports is a lost opportunity.
Legislators should adopt a binding methane intensity target on methane emissions produced during the extraction and transportation of fossil gas.