While emissions of methane across the European Union have decreased over past years, the overall reduction in emissions needs to accelerate to meet 2030 and 2050 EU climate objectives. Increased global efforts to reduce methane emissions would also be needed to mitigate global warming in the short term, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing on trends and drivers of methane emissions published this week.
Methane emissions on a downward trend, but accelerated cuts needed to meet EU climate targets
The EEA briefing ‘Methane emissions in the EU: the key to immediate action on climate change’ provides an updated review of the key sources of methane (CH4) in the EU and looks at projections, policies and measures implemented as well as relevant EU legislation. The briefing also includes a methane emissions visualisation tool where users can see country CH4 emissions as reported in their greenhouse gas inventories.
A downward trend
According to the latest available official data, emissions of CH4 is down by 36% in the EU in 2020 compared with 1990 levels, furthering a 30-year downward trend. The largest reductions in emissions occurred in energy supply, which includes energy industries and fugitive (leaked or uncaptured emissions) (-65%), waste (-37%) and agriculture (-21%).
Overall, reductions in methane emissions have been significant and reflect:
- a decrease in agricultural livestock numbers and increased efficiency in the agricultural sector;
- lower levels of coal mining and post-mining activities;
- improved oil and gas pipeline networks;
- less waste disposal on land, and
- an increase in recycling, composting, landfill gas recovery, and waste incineration with energy recovery.
The observed emission reductions have contributed not only to climate change mitigation but also to better air quality, because of synergies in the reduction of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
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