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EU Parliament seeks legal clampdown on planet-warming methane emissions

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By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Thursday asked the EU to legally require companies to fix methane leaks and impose binding targets on countries to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas, setting the scene for legislation Brussels will propose later this year.

Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide and is emitted from sources including leaky fossil fuel infrastructure, livestock farming and landfill sites.

The gas has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2 but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster, meaning deep cuts in methane emissions by 2030 could have a rapid impact on slowing global warming.

"We need a quick win to tackle climate change," said Greek lawmaker Maria Spyraki, who authored the Parliament's resolution.

On Thursday the Parliament supported, by 563 votes to 122, the European Commission's plan to propose legislation in December that would force oil and gas companies to report their methane emissions and find and fix leaks.

Parliament said the rules should apply to the entire oil and gas supply chain "as soon as possible" and the EU should make fossil fuel imports conditional on complying with the rules - a move that would hit producers like Russia and Algeria.

Parliament's call adds to pressure on the EU to tackle methane emissions in the international supply chains of fossil fuels consumed in Europe - something the Commission has said it will consider but is not yet firmly committed to.

The EU imports more than 80% of the gas and oil it consumes. Most of the methane emissions associated with those fuels occur outside of EU borders, in supply chains coming into Europe from abroad.

The lawmakers also said Brussels should set binding national targets for EU countries to cut their methane emissions in all sectors.

The EU and the United States are attempting to spur other countries to cut methane faster, and at the upcoming COP26 climate summit will formally launch a joint pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. So far, more than 30 countries have signed up. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Hugh Lawson)