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EU lawmakers back crackdown on powerful greenhouse gas methane

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A pipeline that transports methane from Frank R. Bowerman’s landfill to an on-site power plant is shown in Irvine, California, United States, June 15, 2021. REUTERS / Mike Blake

BRUSSELS, Sept.28 (Reuters) – The European Parliament’s Environment Committee on Tuesday rallied around EU plans to force companies and countries to cut methane emissions, saying lawmakers are likely to support forthcoming legislation to crack down on the powerful greenhouse gas.

Methane is the second leading cause of climate change after carbon dioxide. It has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2, but it breaks down faster in the atmosphere, which means that rapid reductions in methane emissions can quickly have an impact in limiting climate change.

It is emitted from sources such as oil and gas pipeline and infrastructure leaks, animal husbandry and landfills.

On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Environment Committee backed a report by 61 to 10 in support of the Executive Board’s plan, due in December, to force oil and gas companies to report their methane emissions and find and repair leaks.

EU countries are also expected to face binding targets to reduce their own methane emissions, which account for around 10% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, lawmakers said.

“By setting binding methane reduction targets, the EU can play a key role in getting the rest of the world to do the same,” said Maria Spyraki, the Greek lawmaker who wrote the report.

Lawmakers have welcomed the Commission’s proposals to consider a ban on ventilation and flaring, where companies release methane into the atmosphere or deliberately burn it.

The EU-27 is the world’s largest gas importer, and lawmakers have said Brussels should consider applying its methane legislation to imports of fossil fuels, which would hit producers in countries including Russia and Algeria.

The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the report next month and the legislation will only become law after a review process by EU governments and lawmakers that could take up to two years.

The EU and the US this month launched a joint commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, from 2020 levels, in an attempt to lead international action on methane emissions. Read more

Reporting by Kate Abnett; edited by Philip Blenkinsop and Barbara Lewis

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