An empty methane declaration will not help to phase out fossil fuels

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Fossil Fuels

  • The pledge has no legally binding effects, and it introduces nothing new to the current EU commitments in the Methane Regulation Proposal – under discussion at the European Parliament and Council level. 
  • The EU needs to regulate oil and gas imports to tackle methane emissions

Brussels-Sharm-el-Sheikh, 11 November 2022 – Today the EU and U.S. presented at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) a joint declaration to reduce greenhouse gases, particularly methane emissions, from the main oil and fossil gas importing and exporting countries. The declaration, presented a year after the official launch of the Global Methane Pledge during the COP26 in Glasgow, introduces nothing new to current commitments from the US and the EU while diverting focus from what they should do to tackle methane emissions: to regulate oil and gas imports.

While the intention looks laudable on paper, the declaration is a toothless tool in practice. It aims to build a coalition of major global fossil fuels importers and exporters so as to support domestic actions to cut methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions along the fossil energy value chain through robust measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification initiatives. However, the text has no legally binding effects, and doesn’t bring anything new. In particular, the EU is not taking any further commitments beyond what is already included in the Methane Regulation Proposal, which is under discussion at the European Parliament and Council. 

As the EU is among the world’s largest importers of fossil fuels, it needs to be an ambitious global standard-setter and implement stringent measures to cut methane emissions from energy imports. Between 75-90% of the methane emissions caused by the EU fossil fuel consumption occur in the supply chain. This joint declaration cannot be an excuse to refrain from effectively addressing those emissions in the Methane Regulation.  

The findings of a new legal report commissioned by CAN Europe show that it is legally possible to extend the scope of the Methane Regulation to operators outside the EU that export fossil fuels entering the EU market. This means applying the EU domestic provisions on Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV), Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) and Limits on Routine Venting and Flaring (LRVF) to all energy imports, and requiring importers to only source oil and gas from countries and companies meeting those standards. Instead of creating more lock-in scenarios, especially in more vulnerable countries, the EU needs to use its buying power to move exporters to adopt standards on methane emissions, which are still unregulated in large parts of the world. 

Against the current attempts of some Member States in the Council to water down the Methane Regulation proposal, the European Parliament must include strong measures on energy imports to incentivize changes also at the international level. Vague international commitments or voluntary private sector solutions are insufficient given that methane emissions are still rising and heat up the climate over 80 times faster than CO2 over 20 years. 

The non-binding declaration is not ambitious enough to effectively cut methane emissions from the fossil fuels supply chain and slow down the climate catastrophe in the short term. In the long term, the only answer to the climate crisis is to phase out fossil fuels including fossil gas by 2035 and embark on a transition to 100% renewable energy. The way that some countries and the EU exploit the ongoing COP27 by pitching fossil gas and hydrogen as a transition fuel is completely out of step with reality and science. If this new initiative ends up legitimizing and prolonging future fossil fuel consumption it will have done the climate more harm than good. 


Contacts

Enrico Donda, Gas Campaigner, Food & Water Action Europe (FWAE), [email protected], +32 485 187 523 

Julian Schwartzkopff, Senior Expert, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, [email protected], +49 30 2400867-963  

Doruntina Basha, Communications Coordinator, CAN Europe, [email protected]

Nina Tramullas, Interim Head of Communications, CAN Europe, [email protected], +34 676 030 140 (in Sharm-el-Sheikh)

LNG: The U.S. and EU’s Deal for Disaster

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Fossil Fuels

Brussels, 26 October 2022 –  Fossil gas exports would equal climate pollution from 100 coal plants.

A new analysis from Food & Water Action Europe finds that the plan to greatly expand liquified natural gas (LNG) exports from the United States would create a yearly increase in climate pollution equivalent to the emissions from about 100 coal plants.

The analysis – published in the fact sheet ‘LNG: The U.S. and EU’s Deal for Disaster’ – evaluates the consequences of the Biden White House goal of supplying an extra 50 billion cubic meters (BCM) of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) annually until at least 2030.

LNG is mostly methane, a harmful super-pollutant. Food & Water Action Europe finds that the full lifecycle emissions of reaching this 50 BCM goal would create 400 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent annually, which is roughly equivalent to 100 coal plants.

In addition to increasing long-term reliance on dirty energy sources, this scheme will be incredibly expensive. As global LNG prices have skyrocketed in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 50 BCM of LNG could cost €19.6 billion in the short term; through 2025, that total could be over €64 billion. This is an astonishing price to pay for fuel that represents only about 12 percent of overall EU gas demand.

Clean energy solutions would provide cost savings without creating massive new sources of climate pollution. The Food & Water Action Europe report finds that for the same price of 50 BCM of LNG, utility scale solar could provide over 540 million megawatt hours (MWh), 11 percent more than the LNG that would be supplied could generate.

Europe’s fossil gas industry, cemented throughout the past decades, is not the cure for the energy crisis we are in – it is the cause,” said Frida Kieninger, the Director of EU Affairs at Food & Water Action Europe. “Decision makers have been pushed by the fossil gas industry to rush a massive expansion of European infrastructure that simply moves our dependence to other suppliers of dirty fossil fuels. The poison cannot be the remedy. Renewables have saved Europeans billions, and a massive investment in clean energy will tackle energy poverty and prevent us from pouring even more money into the polluting system that got us into this crisis.


Contact:

Enrico Donda, [email protected]

Environmental groups challenge EU support for 30 fossil gas projects

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Fossil Fuels

ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth Europe, Food & Water Action Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network are starting legal action to end support to 30 EU-backed proposed gas projects. They say the EU Commission has given these climate-destructive projects VIP status, in contradiction of its legal obligations.


  • Four environmental groups are starting legal action against the EU’s gas infrastructure priority list.
  • The organisations deem the inclusion of 30 proposed gas projects on the list unlawful and say the EU Commission breached its own climate and energy laws when approving the list. 
  • The cost of all the gas projects amounts to €13 billion. Their collective CO2 and methane output have not been calculated by the Commission or project owners but can be expected to be sky-high.

Every other year, the EU Commission draws up a list of priority energy infrastructure projects deemed beneficial to the whole bloc. Infrastructure on the “Projects of Common Interest” list gain fast-tracked permits and eligibility for EU funds.

Billions of euros are bound to be wasted on 30 major pieces of gas infrastructure like the EastMed pipeline – a €7 billion, 1,900km gas pipeline that will connect Eastern Mediterranean offshore gas fields from Israel and Cyprus to Italy via Greece.

The groups have been able to commence legal action through a request for internal review – a mechanism now open for use by NGOs and the public after a major reform of EU access to justice laws last year.

The four organisations request the EU Commission to review the decision that approved the PCI list and gave 30 proposed gas projects priority status. If the Commission refuses to amend its decision, the organisations will be able to ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule.

ClientEarth lawyer Guillermo Ramo said: “This list amounts to a VIP pass for fossil gas in Europe, when we should be talking about its phase-out. The Commission did not consider the impact of methane emissions derived from gas infrastructure projects – in spite of evidence that these are substantial. That’s unlawful as it directly clashes with the EU’s own climate laws and its legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

Methane is the main component of fossil gas, with a global warming potential over 85 times higher than that of CO2 over 20 years. Yet, its impact when planning gas infrastructure is not taken into account. 

The environmental organisations argue the EU’s decision to support gas infrastructure puts the EU’s climate and energy goals under threat. Experts have clearly said no new gas or other fossil fuel developments should be built if we are to limit warming within 1.5C. The list also comes as Europe faces a gas price crisis, caused in part by over-reliance on price-volatile gas.

Despite this, the EU Commission’s REPowerEU strategy plans to unleash another €10 billion in new fossil gas infrastructure.

Some studies point out that the EU can end imports of all Russian fossil gas by 2025 – two years earlier than the European Commission’s current target of 2027 – without building new gas infrastructure or delaying the phase-out of coal.

Natasa Ioannou, climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth Cyprus said: “The EastMed pipeline is a disaster for communities and the climate. It is not in the interests of local people in the region who will bear the costs of fossil fuel lock-in, and the harm to the ecologically-sensitive Mediterranean Sea. All along the route of the EastMed pipeline people are saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure and yes to climate justice and to peace. EU funding must focus on supporting projects that implement just, fair, safe, and renewable energy solutions.”

The European Commission now has up to 22 weeks to reply. The end result could be a judgement clarifying how the EU should take the climate impacts of infrastructure into account.

Notes to editors

What is the Projects of Common Interest list?

In November 2021, the EU Commission published a list of priority energy infrastructure – as it does every two years – which includes 30 fossil gas infrastructure projects. This list entered into force in April 2022.

  • These projects can receive streamlined environmental impact assessment, a fast-tracked permitting procedure and are eligible for EU funding.
  • They are aimed at facilitating gas transport, storage or import. They include pipelines and LNG terminals such as the EastMed pipeline, the Melita Transgas pipeline, the Cyprus LNG import terminal, the Baltic Pipe, the Poseidon pipeline, etc.
  • The cost of all gas projects on the list is estimated at €13 billion. But this doesn’t include the cost on nature, human health and climate.

The list is governed by the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) Regulation which was revised recently. Despite initial intentions to get rid of fossil fuel projects in TEN-E, the EU Council and Parliament have proposed loopholes that would still leave considerable room for gas projects on future editions of the priority list. The process of establishing the list has been repeatedly criticised for lack of transparency and for being heavily influenced by vested fossil gas industry interests.

What is the legal procedure used in this case?

ClientEarth has fought a decade-long battle to improve access to justice rights at EU level. In 2021, a landmark reform of EU access to justice laws was approved. This has lifted the main barriers preventing NGOs and people from challenging environmental wrongdoings in court.

Environmental NGOs now have the right to ask EU institutions and bodies – in this case the European Commission – to review one of their own decisions for contravening EU law related to the environment. The Commission must officially reply to such a request within 16 weeks, a deadline that can be extended up to 22 weeks. If the claimants find that the Commission’s reply does not fix the legal violation, the claimants can sue the Commission in the Court of Justice of the European Union.

What are the climate impacts of gas and methane?

Gas extraction and transportation not only emits huge amounts of CO2, it is also a big emitter of potent and poisonous greenhouse gas methane. The drilling and extraction of gas from wells and its transit through pipelines results in emissions of methane – its primary component, which is a whopping 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in storing heat over 20 years. Beyond climate, methane also has devastating impacts on human health – via air pollution – and ecosystems.

Both the IEA and the IPCC have clearly said no new oil and gas extraction projects  should be built if we are to keep warming within 1.5C. Additionally, a recent study found that nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if 1.5C is to be achieved.

New survey of fossil gas companies shows gas industry climate strategies are business as usual

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Fossil Fuels

Brussels, 18 May 2022 – There is no doubt that meeting global climate goals will require a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. This task – already a monumental challenge – is complicated by the fact that the fossil gas industry is advancing  false solutions that seem primarily designed to preserve their  business models.

A new market survey from two German NGOs, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and urgewald, reveals a shocking lack of knowledge among fossil gas companies about their own methane emissions, and massive inconsistencies in industry climate strategies that rely on pseudo-solutions such as fossil hydrogen to extend fossil gas use.

While all 12 responding companies proclaim a desire to become climate neutral by 2050 at the latest, there is little to no awareness that fossil gas consumption needs to be radically reduced in the short-term, and that the power and heating sectors must shift to clean alternatives. Instead of credible plans to move out of fossil gas, company climate strategies present measures such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and gradual replacement with green and low-carbon gases as ways to make gas “clean” in the long term. Many are even planning to shift from coal to fossil gas as part of their climate strategies.

The industry is pinning particularly high hopes  on hydrogen, which is a risky bet. Available hydrogen quantities will be too limited for a large-scale use, and using hydrogen for heat and power generation is among the most inefficient uses of the fuel.

Four companies are also actively pursuing fossil hydrogen, such as ‘blue’ or ‘turquoise’ hydrogen, which is linked to the extraction and processing of fossil gas. 1.7 GW of total blue hydrogen capacity is already in the pipeline among surveyed companies. Fossil hydrogen plans are industry’s smokescreen for more fossil fuel use, to the detriment of the planet, climate and people. While turquoise hydrogen is still in the experimental stages and highly expensive, studies show that blue hydrogen produced from fossil fuels may be more climate-damaging than burning coal or fossil gas. The CCS technology associated with blue hydrogen production, which promises to capture fugitive CO2 emissions, is not only expensive and inefficient, but it is also unable to effectively stop methane leaks and requires huge amounts of electricity.

The survey indicates that nine companies have plans to expand their electrolysis capacity, up to 10GW by 2030, but only two companies will focus on 100% renewable-based hydrogen projects. Only green hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water and using electricity from renewable sources has a real climate benefit. However, its application needs to be limited to priority uses, and not the “blending” projects where small amounts of green hydrogen are injected into existing fossil gas pipelines. Such plans would only maintain operational the fossil gas network.

That very fossil gas network represents a key climate problem. Methane is the main component of fossil gas and a super-potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Methane leakages occur along the entire fossil gas value chain, including during fossil hydrogen production, and the survey shows that companies do not control these emissions effectively. Only four of the surveyed companies were able to provide details on detected methane leaks from their own infrastructure, while leak detection and repair campaigns are conducted at most annually, if at all.

Although climate science is clear about the need to transition away from fossil fuels altogether, only two companies have set a clear timeline for phasing out fossil gas by 2040. Additionally, none of the fossil fuel producing companies surveyed envisages targets to halt extraction activities. This is in clear disagreement with the latest IPCC report on mitigation of climate change, which reminds us that greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 to limit global warming below 1.5°C.

As the EU is under pressure to cut Russian energy imports, the fossil industry is desperate to keep fossil gas in the future energy mix. Fossil companies distract people by investing in pseudo-solutions, while they leave the door open to fossil gas after 2030 and 2035. This is further encouraged by some Member States, such as Germany, which are ready to implement new projects to transport blue hydrogen and are pursuing massive LNG expansion plans.

It is clearly not enough to rely on voluntary industry commitments to achieve the kinds of pollution reductions that are necessary. Strong government regulations are needed to prevent the global phase-out of coal from leading to the increased use of fossil gas and to ensure that energy companies comply with the Paris climate target rather than undermining it by betting on fig-leaf solutions.


Contact:

Enrico Donda, [email protected]
Julian Schwartzkopff, [email protected]

 

US, European Green Groups Urge Leaders to Reject Fossil Fuel Expansion Schemes

Categories

Fossil Fuels

For immediate release: April 14 2022 — Expanding dirty energy to counter Russian invasion will doom international climate action 

Hundreds of groups in the United States and across Europe sent a letter to President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today urging them not to build new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The groups expressed their concerns that the March 25 US/EU Joint Energy Security announcement could encourage the construction of new fracked gas infrastructure, including export facilities and pipelines, and that the drive to replace Russian gas will increase fracking in the United States. As the letter states, “we urge you to direct the Energy Security Task Force to develop a plan that ensures no new financing, exploration licenses, or permits for coal, oil or gas extraction, expansion of exports, imports and infrastructure, and to develop a plan to transition the EU and US off all fossil fuels by 2035.

While fossil gas companies are pushing to expand the buildout of export terminals, the groups argue in their letter that “redirecting existing LNG exports, combined with energy efficiency measures and an all-out mobilization to renewable energy, could immediately address Europe’s current reliance on Russian gas.” 

Further, the letter points out that long term fossil fuel investments are contrary to the recommendations laid out in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report: “Any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe will rob us of our last chance to avert climate chaos, and continue the decades of harm done to frontline communities living near fracking wells and LNG infrastructure, including pipelines and export and import terminals.”

The letter comes just days after nearly 300 scientists wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to stop plans to increase fossil fuel production or to build new dirty energy infrastructure.

“The answer to a crisis brought on by dirty, expensive fossil fuels cannot be to do more of the same and expect a different result,” said Food & Water Watch Policy Director Jim Walsh. “It would be a climate disaster to double down on fossil fuels when we have all the available technologies to jumpstart a rapid shift towards clean renewable energy. We urge all world leaders to pursue policies that end the fossil fuel era once and for all.”  

“The energy dilemma facing Europe is similar to that facing the Delaware River Watershed in our struggle to stop the production and export of Liquefied Natural Gas. The solutions to both lie in switching from the deadly dependence on fossil fuels to developing truly clean, renewable energy sources that benefit the consumer and allow for self-sufficiency and independent economic control. We are united with our allies to end the tyranny of fossil fuels, the only choice to avert climate catastrophe and more suffering,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“President Biden’s plans to increase gas exports are in direct contradiction to his commitment as the environmental president, to environmental justice and climate action,” said John Beard, founder and CEO of the Port Arthur Community Action Network. “Fast-tracking new gas infrastructure would only add insult to injury for communities in the Gulf coast that have been overburdened with the toxic impacts of the fossil fuel industry for generations; over-exposed to the frequent storms and disasters driven by climate change. I invite him to come to Port Arthur, and other impacted cities, and see for himself. Instead of doubling down with more dirty energy, he should be doing everything he can to invest in a just recovery and an equitable transition from fossil fuels.” 

“This plan would have disastrous implications for communities in Texas and across the Gulf coast. Our region is already overburdened with decades of pollution from oil and gas operations, and dozens of new projects are proposed. President Biden’s plans to increase gas exports would require more fracking and would lock us into decades of pollution and would exacerbate the climate crisis. We need clean energy policies that protect our communities, keep our air and water clean, and provide real support for working families,”said Melanie Oldham, Citizens for Clean Air and Water in Brazoria County. 

“An exclusively economic and short-term view cannot prevail in the face of the magnitude of the challenges we face,” said Marina Gros, Gas Campaigner at Ecologistas en Acción in Spain. “Most fossil fuels must remain in the ground. However, the EU is facing a false dilemma of increasing dependence on fracking gas from the US, which causes high impacts on communities and the climate. It is a false dilemma, because with an adequate and rapid energy transition, based on reducing energy demand and changing the production and consumption system, external dependencies could be reduced and the development of new and expensive gas infrastructures would not be needed.“


Contact: Peter Hart, [email protected] 

MEPs fail to end Europe’s fossil fuel dependency, locking Europe into further gas volatility

Categories

Fossil Fuels

BRUSSELS, 9TH MARCH 2022 – Today, Members of the European Parliament voted to approve a list of priority energy projects, including 30 cross-border gas mega projects

Most MEPs voted in favour of the so-called fifth Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list, giving the 30 cross-border gas infrastructure projects faster permitting procedures and the opportunity to access EU public funds [1].  

Eilidh Robb, Fossil Fuel Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe commented: 

“Today MEPs have voted to pour yet more public money into fossil fuel infrastructure that will lock households into a dirty energy system that people and planet simply cannot afford.  Parliamentarians have failed to break the cycle of destruction and to speed-up the transition we desperately need away from fossil fuels and to warm homes and clean, secure, renewable energy.”

Frida Kieninger, Director of EU Affairs at Food & Water Action Europe states: 

“The dark times we live in show clearer than ever that Europe’s fossil fuel dependence brings harm, energy poverty and insecurity. The answer to this must not be creating more fossil gas dependence through 30 massive fossil gas pipelines and LNG projects worth €13 billion. The answer must be putting all possible support behind 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency.

***

Notes to Editor: 

Please note that MEPs were asked whether or not they wanted to vote in support of the motion of rejection, or against the motion of rejection.This means that a + vote is a vote to reject the 5th PCI list and a – is a vote to accept the 5th PCI list as it stands.

 

[1] 5th PCI List Plenary Vote Resolution B9-0137/2022: 696 total votes, 497 against the motion for rejection, 177 in support of the motion for rejection, 22 abstained. 

4th PCI List Plenary Vote Resolution B9-0091/2020: 648 total votes, 443 against the motion for rejection, 169 in support of the motion for rejection, 36 abstained. 

 

Relevant Links: 

Motion for Rejection of 5th PCI List 

5th Projects of Common Interest List 

FAQ on Rejecting the 5th PCI List

 

Contact:
Eilidh Robb (EN) +32 (0) 493 93 50 79, [email protected]

Frida Kieninger (EN, DE, ES, FR) +32 (0) 487 24 99 05, [email protected]