The European Union’s proposed law to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector may be undermined by amendments that create “loopholes,” according to concerns raised by environmental advocacy group, the Environmental Defence Fund Europe. Two weeks ago, the European Parliament’s Environment and Industry Committees adopted a proposal to cut emissions of methane from the energy generation sector. The proposed law aims to reduce direct methane emissions from the oil, fossil gas, and coal sectors, and from biomethane, once it is injected into the gas network. The parliament is currently sitting in a plenary session where it will review and enter final debates on its report on the European Commission’s proposed legislation. The report is set for a vote in the parliament tomorrow (Tuesday, May 9), which will decide the parliament’s position on the matter.
The Environmental Defence Fund Europe said it supports the stance taken by the two committees in late April on the proposed legislation. However, the group’s senior director for EU energy transition, Flavia Sollazzo, expressed concern about a set of amendments proposed by some MEPs ahead of the plenary vote on May 9. “This new set is greatly concerning because they subvert the scope of the regulation itself, and are far from reflecting international best practices,” Sollazzo said. She added that the amendments could result in oil and gas companies being able to under-report methane emissions. “Disregarding the strong agreement initially reached by [the environment and industry committees] would create loopholes that could exempt companies from new rules,” she said. “If the European Parliament wants to play its part in making the ambition of the European Green Deal a reality and in cutting methane emissions, it’s crucial it supports the current version of the report approved by [the committees, by] objecting to the new amendments. Failure to do so will undermine the EU’s climate targets as well as its leadership role in the global effort to reduce methane emissions,” she added.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential around 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. The EU is committed to reducing its methane emissions by 35% by 2030, as part of its Green Deal strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The proposed law is part of a package of measures aimed at achieving this goal, which also includes a proposed revision of the EU’s Emissions Trading System to include shipping and aviation. The EU is the world’s largest importer of fossil gas, and the energy sector is responsible for around 40% of the bloc’s methane emissions.
The proposed law would require companies to monitor and report all methane emissions, including those that occur during the extraction, transport, and use of fossil fuels. Companies would also be required to undertake regular leak detection and repair programmes, and to use best available technologies to prevent emissions. The law would also introduce minimum requirements for measurement, reporting, and verification of emissions, as well as penalties for non-compliance.
The proposed amendments that have raised concerns would limit the scope of the law by excluding certain types of emissions, such as those from abandoned wells and pipelines. They would also reduce the frequency of monitoring and reporting requirements, and limit the use of best available technologies. The amendments would also weaken the measurement, reporting, and verification requirements, and reduce the penalties for non-compliance.
The amendments have been proposed by a group of MEPs from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European Parliament. The EPP has argued that the proposed law would impose unnecessary costs on businesses and that it would be more effective to focus on reducing emissions from agriculture and waste management. The group has also argued that the proposed law would unfairly target gas and oil companies, who are already subject to stringent regulations.
The amendments have been criticised by environmental groups, who argue that they would undermine the effectiveness of the proposed law. “The EPP amendments would gut the methane regulation and make it toothless,” said an analyst for the Clean Air Task Force. “The EPP is trying to weaken the regulation so much that it would be worse than having no regulation at all,” he added.
The proposed law has also been welcomed by some industry groups, who argue that it would provide a level playing field for companies and would help to build public trust in the energy sector. “The proposed regulation is a crucial step in reducing emissions from the energy sector and in achieving the EU’s climate targets,” said a spokesperson for the European Wind Energy Association. “It will provide a clear framework for companies to monitor and report their emissions, and will help to build public trust in the energy sector,” he added.
The European Parliament’s vote on the proposed law is expected to be closely contested, with some MEPs calling for stronger measures to reduce methane emissions. The outcome of the vote will determine the parliament’s position on the matter, and will inform negotiations with the European Council, which represents the member states. The final text of the law will then need to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council before it can be adopted.
In conclusion, the proposed EU law to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector is facing opposition from some MEPs who have proposed amendments that could create “loopholes” and undermine the effectiveness of the law. Environmental groups have expressed concern that the amendments could result in companies being able to under-report methane emissions, and have called on the European Parliament to support the current version of the report approved by the environment and industry committees. The proposed law is part of the EU’s Green Deal strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and would require companies to monitor and report all methane emissions, undertake regular leak detection and repair programmes, and use best available technologies to prevent emissions. The outcome of the vote on the proposed law is expected to be closely contested, with some MEPs calling for stronger measures to reduce methane emissions.