The European Union’s Parliament has voted to increase regulations on methane emissions in the energy industry, especially targeting fossil fuels.
The overwhelming 499-73 vote, with 55 abstentions, is the first EU-wide legislation aimed at cutting methane emissions, which are more potent than carbon emissions and account for about a third of the world’s total emissions. The law covers direct methane emissions from the oil, gas, and coal sectors, as well as from biomethane once it is injected into the gas network.
As part of the vote, the EU Parliament is seeking the EU Commission to propose a binding 2030 reduction target for EU methane emissions for all relevant sectors by the end of 2025. It also encourages members to set national methane reduction targets.
The energy industry accounts for about 40% of global methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, second to agriculture. According to the IEA, 135 million metric tons of methane was emitted by the energy industry in 2022.
The EU rules will require a ban on venting and flaring methane from drainage stations by 2025 and from ventilation shafts by 2027. It also calls for more frequent leak detection and repair surveys than what has previously been proposed by the EU Commission. The law will require operators to repair or replace all components found to be leaking methane within five days after the problem was discovered.
Additionally, it says EU countries need to establish mitigation strategies for abandoned coal mines and inactive gas and oil wells. The EU also wants the rules to apply to the petrochemicals sector.
More than 80% of oil and gas consumed in the EU is imported, according to the Parliament. Beginning in 2026 the law will require that companies that import coal, oil, and gas to Europe meet the standards of the law. Imports from countries with similar methane requirements will be exempted from the law.
Last year the EPA in the United States proposed similar regulations targeting the oil and gas industries. Those rules also focused on leaks and the use of technology such as methane detection systems.
To achieve international 2050 net-zero targets, methane emissions in the fossil fuel industry need to fall by up to 75% by 2030, according to the IEA. The EU is a part of the Global Methane Pledge, which includes more than 100 countries that represent nearly half of the world’s methane emissions, with a goal of reducing overall methane emissions by 30% through 2030.
“Without ambitious measures to reduce methane emissions, Europe will miss its climate targets and valuable energy will continue to be wasted,” said Jutta Paulus of Group of the Greens and the European Free Alliance. “In the energy sector, three-quarters of methane emissions can be avoided through simple measures and without large investments. As Europe imports more than 80% of the fossil fuels it burns, is essential to expand the scope to energy imports.”