The EU has struck a deal - the first of its kind - that will force the fossil fuel industry to rein in dangerous methane pollution. It applies within the EU and will also extend to apply to imported fuels by 2030.
Under the law, coal, oil and gas companies will be obliged to report their methane emissions and take steps to stop them. The measures include finding and fixing leaks, and limiting wasteful practices such as venting and flaring gas by 2027.
Jutta Paulus, a German MEP, said: “Finally, the EU tackles the second most important greenhouse gas with ambitious measures. Less methane emissions mean more climate protection and more energy sovereignty.”
Methane has more than 80 times the global heating power of carbon dioxide over a 20 year time span but does not last as long in the atmosphere. So, cutting methane emissions is seen as a vital immediate solution - that's relatively easy and cheap to fix.
The new EU rules mean fossil fuel companies must try to repair leaks no more than five days after finding them, and fully fix them within a month. By the end of 2024, operators will have to survey their existing sites and submit action plans to find and fix methane leaks. No doubt Vanguard, a recently launched methane detecting satellite (and others like it) will help ensure that polluters understand that the 'aerial police' will be able to monitor that they accurately report and honestly eliminate their emissions.
By the end of this decade, the rules will also tackle imported fuels, which experts believe will raise the bar for fossil fuel companies around the world. Analysis by the environmental nonprofit organisation Clean Air Task Force found global methane emissions from oil and gas could decrease by up to one third if foreign suppliers were held to the same standards as European ones.
Sabina Assan, a methane analyst at the clean energy thinktank Ember, said: “The regulation is one of the first of its kind for coalmines, and a massive leap forward in terms of monitoring, reporting and mitigation of methane from underground and abandoned mines.”
Policymakers have started to pay more attention to methane emissions, which have been unregulated in much of the world. Since the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow two years ago, 149 countries and the EU have joined a pledge to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.