BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - According to a study, emissions of climate-damaging methane from opencast lignite mining in Germany are significantly higher than assumed. According to the study by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) and the Ember Climate Institute, Germany could be emitting around 184 times more methane in this area than officially stated. According to DUH, this is an estimate based on satellite data.

So far, Germany claims to be responsible for 1390 tons of methane emissions from opencast lignite mining in 2022 - this corresponds to one percent of EU-wide methane emissions from this sector. The authors of the study assume that, according to their calculations, it should be just under 256,000 tons. They also point out that German lignite production in 2022 accounted for more than 40 percent of the total production of the fuel in the EU.

In Germany and many other countries, there have been no reliable measurements of methane pollution from opencast lignite mining to date. Official emissions reporting is based on outdated figures from RWE subsidiary Rheinbraun AG. These were collected in the 1980s. Former opencast mines that continued to emit methane after their active period were not included, for example.

For the study, satellite images of the Hambach open-cast mine in the Rhenish lignite mining area, the Welzow-Süd open-cast mine in Lusatia and the open-cast lakes in the Lusatian Lakeland were analyzed. According to the report, particularly high methane emissions were measured there.

"In order to comply with the 1.5-degree limit, global methane emissions must be massively reduced," warned DUH Federal Managing Director Sascha Müller-Kraenner on Wednesday. However, this is "only an empty promise as long as Germany simultaneously understates a significant proportion of its emissions, possibly by a factor of three", he criticized. Environmental Aid called on the German government to present a cross-sectoral reduction strategy for methane.

This Wednesday, the European Parliament will vote on a regulation to reduce methane emissions across the EU. It provides for stricter rules for emissions from the energy sector. For example, operators of oil and gas plants are to be obliged to regularly search for major methane leaks and repair them.

According to the Federal Environment Agency, methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2). A major source of methane is therefore animal husbandry in agriculture. Emissions are also produced when fuels are extracted, demanded and distributed./faa/DP/mis