EU executive proposes methane emissions limit on gas imports – document

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By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has proposed imposing methane emissions limits on EU gas imports from 2030, a move that would pressure the bloc’s international fossil fuel suppliers including the U.S. to cut leaks of the potent planet-warming gas.

The proposal seen by Reuters on Wednesday and dated Oct. 23 comes in response to pressure from the European Parliament and some big EU countries including France in ongoing talks on a law addressing methane emissions inside the bloc.

Methane is the main component of the natural gas countries burn in power plants and to heat homes. It is also a greenhouse gas and the second biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide, with a potent warming effect when it escapes into the atmosphere.

The new proposal would require foreign gas suppliers to curb methane emissions from leaky oil and gas infrastructure.

“Failure to comply shall be disincentivised, taking security of supply considerations into account,” said the draft proposal, made during EU negotiations on the upcoming methane-cutting law.

If the draft proposal is approved, the Commission would set out the details in an “implementing act” at a later date, it said. A Commission spokesperson declined to comment on the draft.

German lawmaker Jutta Paulus, a lead negotiator on the law for the EU Parliament, welcomed the move to address imported gas.

“However, 2030 is too late for action,” she said. The EU Parliament is pushing in the negotiations for methane restrictions on imported fossil fuels from 2026.

A U.S. State Department official also welcomed the “robust” proposal, saying it would leverage the power of gas buyers to “cut methane emissions upstream,” which could make a “substantial contribution” to global efforts to reduce the potent greenhouse gas.

The U.S. and EU led at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021 the creation of the Global Methane Pledge, an effort to slash methane emissions 30% by 2030. It currently has nearly 150 participating countries.

In the short term, methane has a higher planet-warming effect than CO2, but it leaves the atmosphere faster. Scientists say rapid cuts in methane emissions are crucial this decade if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid its most devastating impacts.

Europe’s gas supply sources have changed significantly in the last two years, after former top gas supplier Russia cut deliveries in 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine.

Norway, whose fossil fuel production has among the world’s lowest methane emissions intensity, became the EU’s top gas supplier last year.

But a methane limit could have a bigger impact on other gas suppliers to the EU where emissions rates are higher, such as Algeria and the U.S.

EU countries and lawmakers are trying to strike a final deal on the methane law before the U.N.’s COP28 climate summit, which starts on Nov. 30.

The draft Commission proposal would significantly strengthen the planned law. The original proposal for the EU methane rules, from 2021, focussed on oil and gas producers in Europe and left imported gas – more than 80% of EU supply – largely untouched.

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