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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Commission adopts EU Methane Strategy as part of European Green Deal

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission presented today (14 October) an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions. Methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide. It is also a potent local air pollutant causing serious health problems. Tackling methane emissions is therefore essential to reaching our 2030 climate targets and the 2050 climate neutrality goal, as well as contributing to the Commission's zero-pollution ambition.

This strategy sets out measures to cut methane emissions in Europe and internationally. It presents legislative and non-legislative actions in the energy, agriculture and waste sectors, which account for around 95% of methane emissions associated with human activity worldwide. The Commission will work with the EU's international partners and with industry to achieve emission reductions along the supply chain.

Executive Vice President for the Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “To become the first climate neutral continent, the European Union will have to cut all greenhouse gases. Methane is the second most powerful greenhouse gas and an important cause of air pollution. Our methane strategy ensures emissions cuts in all sectors, especially agriculture, energy, and waste. It also creates opportunities for rural areas to produce biogas from waste. The European Union's satellite technology will enable us to closely monitor emissions and help raise international standards.”

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “We have adopted today our first strategy to tackle methane emissions since 1996. While the energy, agriculture and waste sectors all have a role to play, energy is where emissions can be cut the quickest with least costs. Europe will lead the way, but we cannot do this alone. We need to work with our international partners to address the methane emissions of the energy we import.”

One of the priorities under the strategy is to improve measurement and reporting of methane emissions. The level of monitoring currently varies between sectors and member states and across the international community. In addition to EU-level measures to step up measurement, verification and reporting standards, the Commission will support the establishment of an international methane emission observatory in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the International Energy Agency.

The EU's Copernicus satellite programme will also improve surveillance and help to detect global super-emitters and identify major methane leaks. To reduce methane emissions in the energy sector, an obligation to improve detection and repair of leaks in gas infrastructure will be proposed and legislation to prohibit routine flaring and venting practices will be considered. The Commission will engage in a dialogue with its international partners and explore possible standards, targets or incentives for energy imports to the EU, and the tools for enforcing them.

The Commission will improve reporting of emissions from agriculture through better data collection, and promote opportunities to reduce emissions with support from the Common Agricultural Policy. The main focus will be on best practice sharing for innovative methane-reducing technologies, animal diets, and breeding management. Targeted research on technology, nature based solutions and dietary shift will also contribute.

Non-recyclable organic human and agricultural waste and residue streams can be utilized to produce biogas, bio-materials and bio-chemicals. This can generate additional revenue streams in rural areas and avoid methane emissions at the same time. The collection of these waste products will therefore be further incentivized. In the waste sector, the Commission will consider further action to improve the management of landfill gas, harnessing its potential for energy use while reducing emissions, and will review the relevant legislation on landfill in 2024. Minimizing the disposal of biodegradable waste in landfills is crucial to avoid methane formation. The Commission will also consider proposing further research on waste to biomethane technologies.

The Commission will also review the Effort Sharing Regulation and will consider expanding the scope of the Industrial Emissions Directive to cover methane emitting sectors not yet included in its scope.

Background

On a molecular level, methane is more powerful than carbon dioxide. It contributes to tropospheric ozone formation, and is a potent local air pollutant which causes serious health problems. At the end of its lifecycle, methane is transformed into carbon dioxide and water vapour, contributing further to climate change. Reducing methane emissions therefore contributes to both slowing down climate change and improving air quality.

The Impact Assessment for the EU's 2030 Climate Target Plan concluded that stepping up the level of ambition for reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions to at least 55% by 2030 would require an accelerated effort to tackle methane emissions. While the EU produces 5% of global methane emissions domestically, it will encourage international action as the largest global importer of energy and as a strong player in the agriculture and waste sectors.

EU

Russia: Summoning of the Russian Ambassador to the EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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European Commission Secretary General Ilze Juhansone and External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov (pictured) to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday (30 April) to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation. 

Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.

Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia's expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.

They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

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Parliament launches the Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize

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The European Parliament has launched a journalism prize in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured), a Maltese investigative journalist murdered in 2017.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, launched on 16 October 2020, the third anniversary of her death, will reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values.

"The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize will recognize the essential role that journalists play in preserving our democracies and serve as a reminder to citizens of the importance of a free press. This prize is designed to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they do and show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists," said Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala.

Prize money of €20,000

The €20,000 annual prize will be awarded as of October 2021 to journalists or teams of journalists based in the European Union. Candidates and the eventual laureate will be chosen by an independent panel.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who reported extensively on corruption, money laundering, organised crime, sale of citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. Following harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017.

The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Critical of failings in the investigation, in December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action.

Published on 28 April, the report Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists from the Council of Europe lists 201 serious violations of media freedom in 2020. This figure marks a 40% increase from 2019 and is the highest figure recorded since the platform was established in 2014. A record number of alerts concerned physical assault (52 cases) and harassment or intimidation (70 cases).

Parliament strongly advocates the importance of a free press. In a May 2018 resolution, MEPs called on EU countries to ensure adequate public funding and to promote a pluralist, independent and free media. Parliament has once again underlined the importance of media freedom in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch this Facebook live interview about the Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize.

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Brexit

Brexit barriers in focus as Northern Ireland's DUP kicks off leadership contest

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Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP) Edwin Poots makes a statement to the media outside Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

Northern' Ireland's biggest party was set for its first ever leadership election after its Westminster chief Jeffrey Donaldson threw his hat into the ring, promising to focus on the divisive issue of post-Brexit trade barriers.

Donaldson will stand against Edwin Poots to lead the Democratic Unionist Party at a time of heightened instability in the British province and unionist anger over the installation of a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Both Donaldson and Poots, Northern Ireland's agriculture minister, stopped short of making detailed campaign promises. But Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe will be watching for any hardening of stances on Brexit or social issues including abortion that could alter the political balance ahead of elections next year.

The DUP currently leads Northern Ireland in a power-sharing government with its Irish nationalist rivals Sinn Fein.

Donaldson or Poots will take over the leadership from Arlene Foster who announced last week she was stepping down as Northern Ireland's First Minister at the end of June, bowing to pressure from party members unhappy at her leadership. Read more

Her departure has added to instability in the region, where angry young pro-British loyalists rioted in recent weeks, partly over the barriers that they feel have cut them off from the rest of the UK.

"I will develop and swiftly implement an agreed programme of meaningful reform and clear policy direction on key challenges like the protocol," Donaldson said in a video announcement, referring to the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Like Foster, Donaldson, 58, is a former member of the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party. He was part of the negotiating team that stuck a deal to prop up the government of former British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017.

Once the DUP's support was no longer needed, May's successor Boris Johnson broke the party's "blood red line" and agreed to erect the trade barriers.

Poots, 55, is one of a number of DUP ministers who have protested against the Brexit arrangements by refusing to attend meetings with Irish counterparts established under the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

Poots, a young earth creationist who rejects the theory of evolution, announced he was standing last week.

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