Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is responsible for about one-third of global warming. On Wednesday, April 10, the European Parliament adopted a regulation to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector. This is a crucial step toward meeting the European Union’s climate goals under the Paris Treaty. It is an interim political agreement with member countries approved by 530 votes to 63, with 28 abstentions. The regulation applies to all 27 member states and will be implemented in the coming months.

The law is Europe’s first piece of legislation to reduce methane emissions. It covers direct methane emissions from the oil, fossil gas, and coal sectors and from biomethane once it enters the gas grid; it also includes requirements for oil, gas, and coal imports starting in 2027. Companies must assess potential impacts and have compliance, reporting, and mitigation processes in place.

The Competent Authorities will enforce the new rules established at the national level, and accredited verifiers will be responsible for verifying the reported data; the burden of compliance is on the operators, i.e., energy companies that handle oil, gas, and coal.

The methane regulation will apply to the following types of companies:

  • Fossil oil and gas exploration and production companies.
  • Fossil gas gathering and processing companies.
  • Transmission system operators.
  • Distribution system operators.
  • Liquefied natural gas terminal operators.
  • Underground storage operators.
  • Underground and surface coal mine operators.

The regulation requires companies to:

  • Report on methane emissions.
  • Inspect company equipment to detect and repair leaks.
  • Prohibit venting (release of methane into the atmosphere from pipelines) and flaring (i.e., burning unwanted, economically unusable methane from production processes).
  • Take an inventory of closed, idle, capped, and abandoned facilities.

Reducing methane emissions is not only about acting on climate but also about improving air quality and increasing the Union’s energy sovereignty.

By adopting this legislation, Europe is responding to the requirements of the Global Methane Pledge, a collaborative initiative launched at COP26 in 2021 by the European Union and the United States.

The pledge aims to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. Participants, from more than 155 countries accounting for just over 50 percent of global methane emissions, commit to voluntary actions to contribute to a collective effort that could eliminate global warming by at least 0.2°C by 2050. These participants commit to higher-level methodologies to continuously improve national greenhouse gas inventory reports’ accuracy, transparency, consistency, comparability, and completeness and provide greater transparency in critical areas. The Union regulation must now also be adopted by the Council, before being published in the Official Journal of the EU and entering into force 20 days later.