Draft of EU Methane Strategy Shies Away from Binding Emissions Standards

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The European Union’s long-awaited plan to curb emissions of methane will not impose binding standards on natural gas sold in the bloc, according to a draft seen by Reuters. 

Methane is nearly 90 times more potent than CO2 in its first 20 years in the atmosphere studies show, and is emitted from leaky pipelines and infrastructure, and is often burned off at oil and gas fields. It is also produced in farming. 

As the world’s biggest importer of natural gas, the EU is facing pressure from investors, climate campaigners and some fossil fuel companies to set binding methane emissions limits on gas sold in Europe.

While the EU regulates methane emissions from gas burned in the bloc, it doesn’t do so for emissions during the production or transport of gas imports, so those emissions don’t show up in the tally of greenhouse gases linked to Europe’s gas-fueled power plants, nor are they are counted in the EU’s climate goals.

The EU’s methane strategy draft, due to be published by the European Commission next month, does not propose further methane emission standards but commits to “explore” them, without fixing a date.

Rather, it will propose legislation next year requiring oil and gas companies to better monitor and report methane emissions, and repair leaks.

The EU executive will then consider standards by 2025 to stop industry venting and flaring methane, practices that release the gas into the atmosphere or deliberately burn it.


Voluntary targets

Yet having the desired policy effect may prove difficult and there could be disagreements over any data used to analyze emissions. Much of the EU’s gas comes from Russia, Norway and Algeria.

The Commission does not comment on unpublished drafts, which are subject to change until adopted.

Some fuel companies, including Shell and BP, have already set voluntary targets to curb methane emissions.

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