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Policy Brief / Gas

How far should the new EU Methane Strategy go?

Author(s): OLCZAK Maria, PIEBALGS Andris

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The decarbonisation of the EU economy requires immediate action to avoid methane emissions.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), but if captured, it provides economic value to energy production. The EU efforts to decarbonise its energy system have so far mostly been concentrated on CO2 emissions mitigation. The Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union requires the European Commission to propose the EU strategic plan for methane, which will become an integral part of the EU long-term climate strategy.
Methane emissions accounted for 11% of total EU GHG emissions in 2016 with agriculture, waste and energy sectors as the major sources. Since the mid-1990s methane emissions have been decreasing, partly due to the adoption of the first EU methane strategy published in 1996. However, the 1996 strategy was not a complete success, since it failed to bring about the expected level of emission cuts.
Based on the analysis of lessons learned, the authors propose that the new EU methane strategy should adopt a new approach based on: a more transparent framework at international, EU and national levels; better coordination of policy measures targeting emissions in agriculture, waste and energy sectors, given that captured methane is a source of energy; setting a EU methane intensity target, which could be included in the revised EU climate pledge – Nationally Determined Contribution – which needs to be submitted by 2025; cooperation with key EU gas suppliers to obtain accurate estimates of gas industry emissions across the entire gas supply chain. It is important that these data are aggregated not only at a corporate, but also a national level to ensure that national policies and regulations are based on accurate methane estimates.