Poland pushes for sixfold weakening of EU Methane Regulation despite potential profit of €31 million

  • Brussels

  • 19 October 2023

A new analysis by energy think tank Ember finds that the final negotiations of the EU Methane Regulation risk weakening the potential emissions reductions from coal mines by six times. Opposition from Poland continues despite the fact that 21% of the country’s emissions reductions could be achieved at profit, generating €31 million every year.

In the coming days, the final negotiations on the EU Methane Regulation will take place, and Poland is pushing for further watering down of the regulation on coal mines.

The Methane Regulation originally proposed an emissions reduction from thermal coal mines of 70% until 2040. However, the text currently agreed on by both the EU Parliament and Council has already weakened these potential reductions to 34%. In its current form, the regulation only requires the implementation of the easiest solutions to capture methane emissions and does not require mine closures.

However, Poland continues to pressure the EU to weaken potential emission cuts even further. Ember’s analysis finds that Poland’s most recent position would result in almost no improvements to the current operations of active mines until 2031, and minor improvements thereafter. 

The report calculates the impact of weakening the methane threshold for thermal mines–from eight to five tonnes of methane per kilotonne of coal in 2031. The analysis finds that at best, cumulative emissions of Poland’s active thermal mines would be reduced by 12% by 2040 compared to business as usual.

Poland could lead the EU’s methane reductions

The report underlines the benefits to Poland of supporting more ambitious regulation on methane: capturing and using methane not only benefits the climate but also helps to increase energy security and decrease energy costs. The IEA estimates that Poland’s coal mines can abate 21% of emissions at a profit totalling €31 million every year.

Poland is losing out on a huge opportunity. Weakening the EU’s Methane regulations is a missed opportunity for Poland to cost-effectively achieve some of the fastest gains in the effort to combat global warming, and place the EU’s coal sector as a world leader in innovative methane measurement and mitigation.

Dr Sabina Assan Coal mine analyst, Ember
EU cannot risk setting a global precedent on coal mine methane

Coal mines emit more methane in the EU than the oil and gas sectors combined, with the same impact as the annual CO2 emissions from 43 million cars. Concerningly, these values are likely an underestimate, with the IEA calculating that the EU’s coal mine methane emissions are 24% higher than officially reported. 

A previous analysis by Ember found that coking coal mines release approximately half of the emissions from active underground mines in the EU. Therefore, the EU Methane Regulation cannot reach its emissions reduction goal if coking coal mines are excluded.

Methane is a fast-acting greenhouse gas and traps 82.5 times more heat than carbon dioxide over 20 years, accelerating short-term global heating. It is therefore crucial to secure a rapid reduction of 75% by 2030. 

Coal mines continue to be allowed to emit massive amounts of methane to the air even though there are proven solutions to prevent it. The emissions are easily avoidable, and it comes at a fraction of the cost of coal industry profits. The European Union was one of the leaders of the Global Methane Pledge, it can’t now set a global precedent in letting coal mines off the hook.

Dr Sabina Assan Coal mine analyst, Ember