Good climate news: MEPs take stand on methane

MEPs have backed plans for a specific strategy to tackle methane emissions in the EU.

While methane can significantly contribute to global warming due to its potency in the short term following release into the atmosphere, it does not currently fall under the scope of any EU climate protections.

Today’s vote was on a suite of new draft laws on how to ensure the EU meets its energy and climate commitments.

Half of all emissions of the greenhouse gas come from livestock farming.

Reacting to the vote result, the EEB’s Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy, Faustine Bas-Defossez, said that sustainable farming across Europe is only possible if emissions of methane are tackled:

“Farmers are at the frontline facing the impact of climate change, so ensuring the EU adopts a sound strategy on a potent greenhouse gas like methane is a win-win for the climate and the farm sector’s long-term ability to farm. Given that excessive methane emissions are the by-product of a farming model that has left farmers reliant on exporting intensively-produced cheap animal products outside Europe, EU policies must also support the transition to a sustainable farming system that gives farmers fair prices for their produce.”

If the methane strategy is signed off by EU governments when the MEPs leading on the topic enter three-way talks with the Council and the Commission it will be integrated into plans for each EU country to meet the climate targets set out in the Paris climate agreement. The negotiations (dubbed trialogues in Brussels parlance) are set to begin shortly after this week’s Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg wraps up.

Methane is also produced when natural gas is extracted and burned. Recent research from the Tyndall Climate Research Centre revealed that empirical studies of fossil fuel producing areas have found that governments are underestimating when reporting on official methane emissions levels, and that the actual levels are dangerously high.

As methane is also responsible for ozone formation it has an indirect impact on air quality which has serious implications for human health. A year and a half ago the European Parliament and EU governments voted to remove methane from an EU law that sets caps on how much of different air pollutants can be emitted.

The push for a full EU methane strategy was lead by two MEPs from the European Parliament’s Green group, French MEP Michèle Rivasi and MEP Claude Turmes from Luxembourg.