Fit for 55: New EU legislation for methane emission reductions

The new law is the first piece of EU legislation aimed at cutting methane emissions and covers direct methane emissions from the oil, fossil gas and coal sectors, and from biomethane once it is injected into the gas network. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also want the new rules to include the petrochemicals sector.

The Parliament urged the Commission to propose a binding 2030 reduction target for EU methane emissions for all relevant sectors by the end of 2025. It also proposed that member states should furthermore set national reduction targets as part of their integrated national energy and climate plans.

Today’s vote is a commitment to more climate protection and energy sovereignty in Europe. Without ambitious measures to reduce methane emissions, Europe will miss its climate targets and valuable energy will continue to be wasted.

… said Jutta Paulus, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, DE

Obligations to detect and repair methane leaks strengthened

Operators must submit a methane leak detection and repair programme to the relevant national authorities six months from the date of entry into force of this regulation, with MEPs demanding more frequent leak detection and repair surveys compared to what the Commission is proposing.

MEPs also want to strengthen the obligations to repair leaks, with operators repairing or replacing all components found to be leaking methane immediately after the leak has been detected or no later than five days after.

Parliament supports a ban on venting and flaring methane from drainage stations by 2025 and from ventilation shafts by 2027, ensuring safety for workers in coalmines. It also obliges EU countries to establish mitigation plans for abandoned coalmines and inactive oil and fossil gas wells.

In the energy sector, three quarters of methane emissions can be avoided through simple measures and without large investments. As Europe imports more than 80% of the fossil fuels it burns, is essential to expand the scope to energy imports.

… added Jutta Paulus

Imported fossil energy must also live up to the new rules

As imports make up over 80% of the oil and gas consumed in the EU, MEPs want, from 2026, importers of coal, oil and gas to be obliged to demonstrate that imported fossil energy also meets the requirements in the regulation. Imports from countries with similar requirements for methane emissions shall be exempted.

Next steps

Parliament adopted its position with 499 votes in favour, 73 against and 55 abstentions and is now ready to start negotiations with Council on the final text of the legislation.


Methane emissions in numbers

  • In 2018, methane contributed 17.3% of total world’s emissions.
  • In 2020, methane (CH4) accounted for about 11% of all U.S. GHG from human activities, which include leaks from natural gas systems.
  • GHG emissions —including CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide— of total shipping (international, domestic and fishing) have increased from 977 million tonnes in 2012 to 1,076 million tonnes in 2018 (9.6% increase), IMO data show.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and air pollutant and is responsible for approximately a third of current global warming. It comes from a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, waste and energy, which are responsible respectively for 53%, 26% and 19% of EU methane emissions according to the European Environment Agency. Today, methane emissions are covered under the targets in the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation.

The EU has signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, which could eliminate over 0.2˚C warming by 2050.

In adopting this legislation, Parliament is responding to citizens’ expectations to accomplish and speed up the green transition as expressed in Proposals 2(2), 3(2), 11(1) and 11(7) of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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