Agricultural aims outlined as EU adopts methane strategy

The European Commission presented an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions today (Wednesday, October 14) – which includes its plans for lowering levels coming from agriculture.

Noting that methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide, the commission highlighted that tackling methane emissions is essential to reaching the set 2030 climate targets and the 2050 climate neutrality goal, as well as contributing to the commission’s zero-pollution ambition.

This strategy presents legislative and non-legislative actions in the energy, agriculture and waste sectors, which account for around 95% of methane emissions associated with human activity worldwide, the authority says.

The commission will work with the EU’s international partners and with industry to achieve emission reductions along the supply chain.

Methane measurement

One of the priorities under the strategy is to improve measurement and reporting of methane emissions, according to the commission. The level of monitoring currently varies between sectors and member states and across the international community.

In addition to EU-level measures to step up measurement, verification and reporting standards, the commission will support the establishment of an international methane emission observatory in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the International Energy Agency.

The EU’s Copernicus satellite programme will also improve surveillance and help to detect global super-emitters and identify major methane leaks.

To reduce methane emissions in the energy sector, an obligation to improve detection and repair of leaks in gas infrastructure will be proposed and legislation to prohibit routine flaring and venting practices will be considered.

The commission will engage in a dialogue with its international partners and explore possible standards, targets or incentives for energy imports to the EU, and the tools for enforcing them.

Agriculture

The European Commission said it will improve reporting of emissions from agriculture through better data collection, and promote opportunities to reduce emissions with support from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The main focus will be on best practice sharing for innovative methane-reducing technologies, animal diets and breeding management. “Targeted research on technology, nature-based solutions and dietary shift will also contribute,” according to the authority.

Non-recyclable organic human and agricultural waste and residue streams can be utilised to produce biogas, bio-materials and bio-chemicals.

This can generate additional revenue streams in rural areas and avoid methane emissions at the same time. The collection of these waste products will therefore be further incentivised, the commission says.

Strategy

Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the Green Deal, said: “To become the first climate-neutral continent, the EU will have to cut all greenhouse gases.

Methane is the second most powerful greenhouse gas and an important cause of air pollution. Our methane strategy ensures emissions cuts in all sectors, especially agriculture, energy and waste. It also creates opportunities for rural areas to produce biogas from waste.

“The EU’s satellite technology will enable us to closely monitor emissions and help raise international standards.”

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “We have adopted today our first strategy to tackle methane emissions since 1996. While the energy, agriculture and waste sectors all have a role to play, energy is where emissions can be cut the quickest with least costs.”