Methane gas emissions

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas following carbon dioxide (CO2), yet it is not as widely recognised. Over a 100-year time period, methane is actually 28 times stronger than CO2as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on the physical science basis of climate change from 2013. According to the same report, methane emissions were responsible for one quarter of global warming in 2013

The global community cannot reach energy and climate targets by only addressing CO2. Tackling methane emissions is equally important, as it can have an immediate impact on global temperatures by potentially reducing the expected global warming pathway by 0.5°C by 2050, according to a 2012 academic study on simultaneously mitigating the near-term climate change and improving human health and food security. 

As a precursor to ozone, eliminating unwanted methane emissions also improves air quality, particularly in populated areas.

Reducing methane emissions in the energy sector 

Globally, approximately one third of anthropogenic methane emissions come from the energy sector. In the 2018 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency states that 45% of those emissions can be mitigated at no net cost. Addressing methane emissions, in parallel to CO2 reduction measures, is therefore of key importance to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C.

The European Green Deal sets an ambitious goal to transform the EU economy with no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050. In the Green Deal, methane, and the need to reduce methane emissions, has been identified as one of the areas that shows the best potential to boost the transition to a clean energy system.

As methane emissions transcends national borders, the Green Deal also stresses the need for international collaboration, including through engagement with third countries and multilateral initiatives. 

To facilitate discussion on reducing methane in the energy sector with the various stakeholders, the Commission organised a workshop on 20 March 2020 on the proposed main elements of the strategic plan on tackling mineral methane. An assessment of stakeholder input on this strategy is published on the workshop event page.

Identifying knowledge gaps on methane 

To better understand the nature and size of the problem within the EU, the European Commission launched a call for tender for a study in 2019 on limiting methane emissions in the energy sector. This study, in addition to identifying main knowledge gaps and potential hotspots, will provide recommendations on how to improve measurement, monitoring and detection through better methods, as well as an assessment of existing policies and voluntary industry initiatives globally followed by potential recommendations for the EU.

The preliminary results will be presented and discussed by stakeholders from the energy sector in a meeting on 10 June. The final study is expected in August 2020.

Partners and initiatives 

The Commission is actively involved in several international initiatives on reducing methane emissions, primarily through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Led by the UN Environment Programme, CCAS is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organisations designed to mitigate short-lived greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, and improve local air quality.

Under another strand of CCAC, the CCAC Mineral Methane Initiative, the Commission is also involved in an ambitious methane emissions measurement and reporting framework, as part of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership

In addition, The Commission also contributes to the global methane science studies that aims at addressing a lack of global measurement data in the oil and gas sector.

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