Reducing methane emissions: A new EU strategy to address global warming

Briefing 08-12-2020

Methane, a short-lived greenhouse gas, has a global warming potential much higher than that of carbon dioxide, and is directly linked to air pollution through the formation of ozone. Methane emissions are derived from both natural sources and human activity. Energy, agriculture, waste and wastewater treatment are the biggest sources of anthropogenic methane emissions. Globally, methane emissions increased by 24 % between 1990 and 2018. In the EU-27, methane emissions fell by 0.2 % between 2009 and 2018 and accounted for just over 10 % of total GHG emissions in 2018. The EU has been tackling methane through legislation, policies and strategies aimed at reducing emissions in Europe and internationally since 1996. The EU's methane emissions dropped by a third between 1990 and 2018. As a precursor to ozone, methane is a key factor in air quality and human health. On 14 October 2020, the European Commission presented an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions. The document focuses on cross-sectoral actions within the EU, and builds on actions in the energy, agricultural, waste and wastewater sectors within the EU and internationally. Stakeholders from the industry sector and environmental non-governmental organisations have given feedback on the strategic document and have welcomed the strategy while also highlighting aspects that could be strengthened. In 2019, the European Parliament asked the Commission to address methane emissions reductions through a strategic plan by the end of the first half of its 2019-2024 term. In October 2020, when the strategy was presented, MEPs from the Committees on Industry, Research and Energy welcomed the document and also posed questions in respect of its scope. Parliament's response is currently being prepared by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.