EU agrees law to hit fossil fuel imports with methane emissions limit

Brussels: The European Union reached a deal early Wednesday on a law to place methane emissions limits on Europe’s oil and gas imports from 2030, pressuring international suppliers to clamp down on leaks of the potent greenhouse gas.

After all-night talks, negotiators from EU member states and the European Parliament agreed to a law which from 2030 will require importers of crude oil, gas and coal into Europe to prove those fuels meet a methane intensity limit.

The law will now be put to the European Parliament and EU countries for final approval. That step is usually a formality that waves through pre-agreed deals.

The regulation also introduces new requirements for the oil, gas and coal sectors to measure, report and verify methane emissions, the EU council said in a statement.

The deal obliges oil and gas producers in Europe to find and fix leaks of the potent greenhouse gas in their operations and also limits most cases of flaring and venting, when companies intentionally burn off or release unwanted methane into the atmosphere.

The import rules are likely to hit major gas suppliers which include the United States, Algeria and Russia. Moscow slashed deliveries to Europe last year and has since been replaced as Europe’s biggest pipeline gas supplier by Norway – whose supply has among the world’s lowest methane intensity.

Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide, and in the short term has a far higher warming effect.

Rapid cuts in methane emissions this decade are crucial if the world is to avoid severe climate change. Methane leaches into the atmosphere from leaky pipelines and infrastructure at oil and gas fields.

Foreign suppliers that do not clean up their operations would risk financial penalties. The EU’s exact methane emissions limit will be set by the European Commission a year before it applies.