The renewable energy cooperative Green Planet Energy criticises the EU Commission's proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector as insufficient for successful climate protection. “The legislation proposed by the EU only deals with treating the symptoms. Instead, it must set a clear deadline for the phase-out of fossil gas,” says Marcel Keiffenheim, Head of Policy and Communications at Green Planet Energy. “In the interests of climate change mitigation, we demand a complete phase-out of natural gas by 2035.” Data provided by a new study1, commissioned by Green Planet Energy, also demonstrate the imperative to tackle the problem at its root, says Keiffenheim. “Half of all emissions occur when natural gas is extracted, processed, and transported. Therefore, the best measure to prevent climate impacts of methane is to stop extracting fossil gas,” says Keiffenheim. Consequently, Green Planet Energy is calling on the new German government to reject EU proposals to regulate methane emissions in the absence of an ambitious deadline for the phase-out of natural gas.

The green energy cooperative believes that until a final phase out of natural gas, steps to reduce methane emissions need to be much more ambitious than those planned by the EU Commission. The Commission intends to present its new regulation to the EU Parliament and the Member States on 14 December. Green Planet Energy criticises the fact that the Commission intends to regulate only the amount of methane emitted during the extraction and processing of oil, gas, and coal within the EU itself – even though the EU imports 97 percent of its oil, 90 percent of its fossil gases, and 70 percent of its hard coal. “That’s far from enough: the EU must also take responsibility for climate-damaging methane emissions that are released in exporting countries when they produce the fossil fuels we consume here in the EU,” says Marcel Keiffenheim. He continues, stating that, “as an influential buyer of fossil fuels, it has the power to push through effective reduction measures very quickly.”

Green Planet Energy proposes a mechanism akin to the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. The Commission intends to use this mechanism to put a carbon price on all goods imported into the Union as part of its “Green Deal”. According to Green Planet Energy, such a levy – which reflects the real climate impact of methane – should also be imposed on oil, gas, and hard coal imports into the EU Member States. As a result, imports would increasingly come from producing countries that implement strict regulations for methane emissions.

This is all the more urgent because the climate impacts of fossil gas, in particular, are significantly greater than commonly indicated, as the new study TheClimate Impacts of Natural Gas1 commissioned by the green energy cooperative shows. In addition to the 200 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by the direct combustion of natural gas, another 157 g CO2e (CO2 equivalents) per kWh on average are generated by methane emissions. These are produced in the upstream chains of natural gas supply. In other words, they are released during extraction and processing in the exporting countries and during transport. Methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, is the primary component of natural gas. The volume of emissions is strongly dependent on the production conditions in the exporting countries. For example, studies of gas production in Russia, a leading supplier of fossil gas, conclude that upstream emissions are as high as 240 to 280 g CO2e per kWh. “The climate impact of natural gas doubles when we look at the supply and consumption chain as a whole,” summarises Dr Steffen Bukold of the Hamburg research consultancy EnergyComment and author of the study.

Green Planet Energy, therefore, considers the measures to reduce methane emissions so far proposed by the EU Commission to be inadequate. In particular, the release of methane into the atmosphere and the flaring of quantities not used in the production of oil and gas for cost reasons must also be ended in non-European supplier countries by the beginning of 2023 at the latest. The detection and repair of methane leaks must also take place much more frequently than planned by the EU, which proposes six-month intervals. Marcel Keiffenheim of Green Planet Energy calls for a rapid reduction of methane emissions in every link of the chain. “It is imperative that the EU Commission enforce this immediately. The EU must not protect the profits of fossil energy companies, whether state-owned or private. The EU must protect our climate,” says Keiffenheim.

Green Planet Energy also warns against promoting the use of so-called “blue hydrogen” in the EU as a “low-carbon” technology. The production of blue hydrogen is based on natural gas and generates CO2 emissions. The plan is to use CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology to reduce these emissions, for example, by injecting the carbon dioxide captured into former natural gas deposits for storage. “The high volumes of methane emissions generated in the upstream chain will continue to fuel the climate crisis,” says Marcel Keiffenheim. At the same time, the use of CCS would block limited storage capacities which would otherwise be available for CO2 storage later on, for example, to store residual emissions that cannot be avoided. “The only really sensible solution for effective climate action is the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and the rapid expansion of renewable energies, which can then also be used to produce green hydrogen,” says Keiffenheim. “The EU and the German government must focus their resources on getting this done.”

Note to editors:
The new study TheClimate Impacts of Natural Gas can be downloaded from our website using the following link: