Sunday

11th Apr 2021

EU Commission methane plan lacks binding agriculture targets

  • Over half of methane emissions in the EU come from agriculture (Photo: caese)

The European Commission is seeking to slash methane emissions, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

On Wednesday (14 October), it unveiled a new strategy it says will help meet the 2050 climate change targets as part of its European Green Deal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, European commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, said methane emissions need to be reduced by a third, in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent over the next decade.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans added the latest plan "ensures emissions cuts in all sectors, especially agriculture, energy, and waste."

But critics say it falls short, noting the lack of reduction targets and obligations by farmers to cut methane output.

Almost 60 percent of methane emissions found in the atmosphere are man-made. In the EU, more than half of that comes from agriculture (53 percent), followed by waste (26 percent) and energy (19 percent).

For the commission, the lack of reliable data first needs to be addressed before targets can be designed.

To tackle the problem, the commission says one of the priorities will be to improve measurement and reporting of methane emissions through "voluntary and business-led initiatives."

It will also require energy firms to repair gas leaks amid future legislative plans to also ban routine flaring and venting.

Not everyone is convinced. Climate Action Network, an NGO, said the commission was dragging its feet to legislate.

"A binding regulation on venting and flaring is foreseen only in 2025," it noted, in a statement.

Others were similarly critical, including German Green MEP Jutta Paulus.

"The European Commission only scratches the surface, and limits itself to minor issues like plugging methane leaks and statistics," she said, in an emailed statement.

Paulus said clear targets are instead needed to cut methane emissions, noting the lack of any binding measures for agriculture.

The commission also said it would look into the oil and gas supply chain.

The EU is the largest importer of fossil gas, with the bulk of it arriving from Russia. But a lot of those emissions are released before ever reaching the EU.

The commission wants to use the "EU's diplomatic and external relations actions" whenever necessary to convince other countries to cut methane emission at source.

Asked how it would convince Russia, the commission says there have been technical discussions with Moscow on leakage with existing pipelines.

"There is still much to be done," admitted Simson.

Investigation

The European gas trap

With the support of EU institutions, the fossil industry is investing in natural gas infrastructure all across the continent, from Tallinn to Athens and from the Baltic to the Aegean. But does Europe truly need all this natural gas?

Opinion

Methane emissions will be test of EU's Green Deal

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is one area where the EU has a major opportunity to apply its market power to drive down global emissions, both through methane legislation and diplomacy.

Opinion

Where agriculture trumps the environment

To make the EU's agricultural system fairer and more environmentally friendly, there has to be a radical rethink of current practices.

EU farming deal attacked by Green groups

EU agriculture ministers at around 4am on Wednesday reached a common position on the bloc's farming policy post-2020, including ring-fencing part of the CAP budget for initiatives that protect the environment - but with much flexibility for member states.

Opinion

We must have the courage to prioritise green sciences

The Danish government has committed to reducing Denmark's CO2 emissions by 70 percent by 2030. These are not figures made up for the occasion. They are the targets that scientists believe are the bare necessity.

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us