Tackling methane emissions: Europe's climate blind spot

Uncontrolled oil and gas methane leaks undermine the EU’s progress toward climate stability

This is a question of credibility for EU policy makers; how they deal with the methane challenge will show if they can walk the talk on climate.

Poppy Kalesi, Global Director for Energy

Europe is key to reducing methane

As a major consumer of natural gas, Europe plays a significant role in driving an urgent climate problem: methane emissions. At least one-quarter of today’s warming is caused by manmade methane emissions – and the oil and gas industry accounts for about 25% of this.

Europe sources much of its gas from Russia, Algeria and the United States, some of the largest methane emitting countries worldwide. The European Union cannot ignore its significant contribution, nor its obligation, to help solve this problem right now.

A no regret climate measure

Under the IPCC 1.5 degree C scenario, oil and gas production continues for several decades, but falls off much more steeply than in other scenarios. Some governments in Europe have lost interest in measures that would reduce emissions from this industry because fossil fuels are part of the past.

But, if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must fundamentally break our dependence on oil and gas as primary energy sources, while also deploying technologies that reduce emissions from the production and use of these two fuels.

The problem can be solved

According to the International Energy Agency, the oil and gas sector can cut methane emissions by 75% using current technologies – up to two-thirds of that at no net cost.

Leading companies, including many headquartered in Europe, have committed to methane targets and begun deploying mitigation efforts. At the same time, new projects like MethaneSAT are helping lead the way for a host of new innovations that will make it faster, easier and cheaper to reduce methane emissions.

Time to act

In EDF's brief titled, "Limiting the Climate Impacts of the EU's gas supply", we outline options for the EU to set clear policies for cutting methane emissions. The report comes at a critical time. Climate change has risen to the top of the EU political agenda. And with climate pressures escalating and Europe’s share of energy-related emissions increasing, now is the time for bold action.

EDF is calling on EU policy makers to make an ambitious commitment to virtually eliminate lifecycle methane emissions from all gas used in Europe, including emissions from imported gas, biogas and emerging power-to-gas products.

To achieve the Paris goals, Europe’s 2020 Gas Market Reform must tackle emissions in the energy system today, while creating the framework for Europe’s future sustainability. Reform of the EU gas package represents the next big opportunity for policy makers to demonstrate that climate will be a cornerstone of EU energy policy.

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