14 organisations condemn the current biomethane rush

30th Apr 24 by Maximilian Herzog

We demand a critical sustainability review of biomethane targets in the next legislative EU term 

Not so long ago, in November 2023, final negotiations on the Gas and hydrogen markets Regulation came to an end. A hotly debated topic during these negotiations was the introduction of a binding target of 35 billion cubic metres (bcm) of annual biomethane production by 2030 (in comparison, currently, only 4.2 bcm are produced per year).

As we demonstrated in our substantial report, a 35 bcm target (originating from an industry report and then included in the REPowerEU plan by the EU Commission) lacked and still lacks any independent scientific grounding. Furthermore, no impact assessment has been carried out with regards to its environmental impact. In fact, an own study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center highlighted that only a much lower level of 24 bcm of biomethane could be produced sustainably by 2030.

Even though a binding biomethane target was eventually rejected following strong public pressure by Feedback EU and 15 other organisations, the industry-led push for unhinged biomethane production is ongoing. This is reflected in a new report commissioned by the European Biogas Association (EBA) that goes far beyond previous projections for EU biomethane.

EBA’s latest figures are highly questionable for a number of reasons:  

Firstly, other than assumed by the report authors, no direct connection can be drawn between biomethane production and emissions savings as a contribution to the EU’s proposed 2040 climate target. Merely substituting part fossil fuels’ use with biomethane does not inherently guarantee sustainability. Rather, it is essential to address the potential for emission reductions together with the feasibility of biomethane production from each feedstock. Independent research and impact assessments taking into account not only the impacts of biomethane production on climate change in terms of GHG emissions but also environmental impacts related to different planetary boundaries are therefore urgently needed.

Secondly, EBA’s projections completely ignore the necessity to drastically lower the production of livestock in Europeto reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase food security, and promote healthier diets – as called for by the EU Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisors. In fact, manure should not just be seen as a waste product and means to produce biomethane but as a byproduct of livestock (over)production which causes substantial methane emission. Likewise, the projections pay no heed to the EU’s commitment to reduce food waste as reaffirmed in the current revision of the waste framework directive. Unarguably, EBA’s projections are based on failing on major EU environmental targets including dietary changes and reductions in food waste that are indispensable to achieve the sustainability transition.

Thirdly and lastly, the EBA’s reliance on a massive increase in  “sequential crops” to create feedstock availability for biomethane is alarming. The total disregard of significant environmental risks associated with pesticide use, water usage, soil health, and primary crop yields is yet another confirmation that the current biomethane rush is essentially one for profit based on ongoing plunder of the planet.

This is why today, we have published our newest open letter and sent it to key decision-makers throughout the EU. Together with 14 independent not-for-profit organisations, we condemn the current political and industrial push for biomethane production and – based on our report that was published in 2023 – point out that even 35 bcm of biomethane cannot be produced sustainably in the EU.

In light of the coming European elections and thus a new EU Parliament as well as a new cabinet of EU Commissioners, we therefore urgently demand a review of high biomethane targets together with sustainable food and land use experts to ensure that EU biomethane production helps rather than hinders climate and sustainability goals.

Read the full letter here

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