Methane: Europe’s chronic climate blind spot

(EurActiv, 30 Apr 2019) Europe has long led the global charge against greenhouse gas pollution. But it has been chronically reluctant to address the climate impact of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, writes Poppy Kalesi.

Poppy Kalesi is the director of European oil and gas policy at the Environmental Defence Fund, a pressure group.

As European demand for imported natural gas rises, methane emissions from the industry threaten to undermine progress towards climate stabilisation.

Methane is a potent climate pollutant, more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after release. Human-made methane emissions account for about 25% of today’s warming.

A third of that comes from the oil and gas sector. To keep warming below the crucial 1.5 C threshold, we must reduce methane emissions now, along with carbon dioxide.

But to solve the oil and gas methane problem, Europe’s policymakers first have to acknowledge it.

For years, the dominant view has been that we simply don’t have an oil and gas methane issue. After all, there isn’t much production here, and what does exist is surely well regulated. If there is any concern, the conventional belief goes, it lies elsewhere. This thinking is long overdue for a change.

For starters, there is ample reason to believe the industry’s actual emissions are higher than official estimates. For example, an EDF-led collaborative study published in the journal Science last June found oil and gas companies alone emit 13 million metric tons of methane a year in the US alone, nearly 60% more than government estimates.

European data is more limited, but still gives cause for concern. While a recent study of the sprawling Groningen gas fields led by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research found lower emissions than in North America, they were still much higher than Dutch government estimates.

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EurActiv, 30 Apr 2019: Methane: Europe’s chronic climate blind spot