As EU Debate over Role of Gas Builds, Methane Emerges as Europe’s Climate Blind Spot

Experts from the Environmental Defense Fund outline the EU’s opportunity — and responsibility — to set clear policies for cutting methane emissions from all natural gas

November 4, 2019
Kinga Timaru-Kast, +32 (0)476 968 719,
Lauren Whittenberg, +1 (512) 691-3437,

(BRUSSELS – 4 Nov 2019) The European Union is ignoring an urgent climate issue hidden inside its natural gas supply chain, according to a new policy brief by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The problem is methane, a fast-acting climate pollutant 84-87x more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timespan. And the best options for cutting these potent gases are in the oil and gas industry, one of the world’s largest manmade sources of methane emissions.

In 2017 the EU consumed 47% of the world’s internationally traded gas, making it the single largest market for imported gas. Europe’s gas is sourced from top methane emitting countries, including Russia, the United States and Algeria. As European demand for imported natural gas rises, methane emissions from the industry threaten to undermine climate stabilisation efforts.

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 as part of the EU Gas Market Reform and Green Deal.

Click here to read the full policy brief titled “Limiting the Climate Impacts of the EU’s gas supply: Key issues and opportunities in the 2020 European Gas Framework”.

“This is a question of credibility for EU policy makers; it will show if they can walk the talk,” said Poppy Kalesi, EDF’s Global Director for Energy. “To achieve the Paris goals, the upcoming European Framework for Gas, must tackle emissions in the energy system today, while creating the framework for Europe’s future sustainability.”

Even under the EU’s net-zero emissions ambition, the European Commission expects gas to be part of the EU’s energy system until 2050, albeit in a diminishing role. For as long as gas remains a part of Europe’s energy transition, it is vital for EU policy makers to consider a broad portfolio of options to reduce methane emissions associated with gas production, transport and use, and ensure that any gas coming into the EU meets the Union’s performance standards.

“Any talk about the role of gas for Europe’s long-term sustainability is baseless without a clear policy to reduce methane emissions,” said Kalesi. “Even as we work to end dependence on oil and gas, we cannot afford to let these potent emissions go on unchecked.”

In recent years, methane has emerged as a critically important climate issue that countries must address in addition to carbon dioxide (CO2). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says reducing methane is a necessary complement to reducing CO2 emissions.

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. It’s why 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.  

Kalesi added, “As technology and science evolves, it is important that EU policy makers and regulators focus on the desired outcome — lower methane and carbon dioxide emissions — while taking a flexible and dynamic approach to capitalise on the best available solutions and data.”

EDF policy and science experts will be speaking at a number of events in November to discuss the importance of the EU taking decisive action on reducing methane emissions and the subsequent opportunities, including a GasNaturally event hosted by Adina Valean MEP in the European Parliament on Tuesday the 5th; the European Annual Gas Conference in Paris on Wednesday the 6th; a conference organised by the European Environmental Bureau and Environmental Action Germany  in Brussels, on Thursday the 7th; and a briefing in the European Parliament hosted by Chris Davies MEP and Jutta Paulus MEP in Brussels on Tuesday the 12th.

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