Reducing Methane Emissions – A quick win on tackling climate crisis

By Maria Spyraki , MEP (EPP - ND Greece) - Rapporteur of the EU Strategy to reduce methane emissions

With the catastrophic effects of this summer’s unprecedented floods ,wildfires still being counted, we need to intensify our efforts to tackle the challenges posed by extreme weather conditions. At no other time has the spectre of climate catastrophe seemed as real as across the Mediterranean region this summer. In recent months, we have experienced the strong impact of climate crisis as we have been forced to deal with forest fires.

We need to act immediately, we need to achieve concrete results on reducing GHG emissions and at the end of the day we have to protect our people and the planet not only in the long but also in the short term.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, warming the planet eighty times as much as carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period, before decaying to CO2. While the focus to reduce climate change has rightly been placed on carbon dioxide, methane is the second most important greenhouse gas contributing to the warming experienced to date. Reducing methane emissions is indispensable in the fight against climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals, the European Green Deal and the EU Climate Law.

More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activity in three sectors: energy, waste, and agriculture; In this framework, it is important to proceed with an ambitious revision of our environmental legislation.

In the energy sector, imports account for over four-fifths of the oil and gas consumed in the EU, and most methane emissions associated with oil and gas are occurring outside EU borders. That’s why we must explore regulatory tools on fossil energy imports, develop methods with importing and partner countries to align our efforts, and secure a UN-based pathway on methane in 2021. In the meantime, we could proceed with bilateral agreements with these exporting partner countries.

A strong, independent, and scientifically rigorous Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system is central to address methane emissions. It is necessary to provide credible data, identify issues and efficient measures, and assess the progress achieved. A mandatory MRV system would also improve Member States’ reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). A strong Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programme is a critical element of the EU’s strategy to reduce methane emissions and achieve the EU climate and environment goals.

We also have to support the establishment of an independent international methane emissions observatory, in partnership with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In the agricultural sector, we should encourage innovation, and incentivise our industries to adopt the best practices and available technologies, and to reward the frontrunners. We must ensure that proven, cost-efficient innovations are quickly implemented in the EU and integrated into EU agricultural policies. We must be particularly ambitious in the agriculture sector, in parallel with the Common Agricultural Policy.

By the end of 2021, the EU should – in cooperation with sectoral experts and the Member States – develop an inventory of best practices and available technologies to explore and promote the wider uptake of innovative, mitigating actions. These actions should have a special focus on methane coming from enteric fermentation. In this regard, we have to establish a framework which incentivises and rewards farmers, along with the entire value chain and especially frontrunners, for their efforts.

In the waste sector, the EU should continue to tackle unlawful practices and provide technical assistance to Member States and regions in order to increase the implementation of the existing legislation. We should also help the Member States and regions stabilise biodegradable waste prior to disposal and increase its use to produce climate-neutral, circular, and bio-based materials and chemicals, and divert this waste towards biogas production.

In the review of the Landfill Directive in 2024, the EU should consider further action to improve landfill gas management, minimise its harmful climate effects, and harness any of its potential energy gains. Closure and after-care procedures of landfill cells are key to reducing leakages, taking into account the entire life cycle of landfills.

We must provide specific incentives, suited to each Member State’s conditions, to ensure separate collection of bio-waste to the maximum possible extent, including by encouraging public-private sector cooperation.

Reducing methane now will avoid nearly 0.3 C of warming by 2045. The immediate implementation of methane reduction measures on human sources of methane could reduce methane emissions by as much as 45% by 2030. That would vastly reduce the formation of and exposure to ground-level ozone.

It is time to act now! By reducing methane emissions we can get a quick win for protecting our people and the environment. Let’s do it!