Undefined ‘decarbonised’ gas has no role on path to net-zero by 2050

1    EU increasingly relies on undefined “decarbonised” gases and fuels on path to climate neutrality

As efforts to decarbonise our economy and energy systems pick up, we are seeing an increased reliance on decarbonized fuels, gas in particular – often times referred to as “renewable” and “low-carbon” gases. While low carbon intensity gases and fuels can contribute on the path to net-zero by 2050 – the terminology is confusing, with no common definition to determine when in fact a gas or fuel is renewable or low-carbon.

As the ICCT also points out in their analysis, “low-carbon”, “decarbonised”, “green” and “renewable gases” are being used interchangeably by stakeholders – without specifying their climate impact. To address this issue and provide a clear methodology for assessing the climate impacts of these fuels, a coherent and consistent terminology and definition is needed.

2     Confusing terminology with detrimental effects

The purpose of any “renewable” or “low-carbon” fuel or gas is to significantly reduce emissions compared to the fossils they are replacing. But without a clear definition and common language, we risk further investment and development of infrastructure which is in reality not used for this purpose – all under the guise of sustainability and emission reduction.

We cannot allow garbled language to compromise our efforts to reach the set climate target of net-neutrality by 2050. And the solution is rather simple: we need a definition and robust transparent accounting of so-called “renewable” and “low-carbon gases” based on GHG emission intensity.

3     Definition needed

A clear definition of so-called “renewable” and “low-carbon gases” is needed, and it must be based on GHG emissions intensity.

The definition and accounting must take into account 3 main factors:

  1. The GHG intensity of the energy input
  2. The carbon input, if there is any, and its origin
  3. The upstream emissions of the feedstock used to produce the gas/fuel

It is therefore our recommendation that: a definition as well as robust and transparent accounting as described in this document is included across EU legislation. This would harmonise the legal framework, ensure consistency and safeguard the EU’s climate credibility.

A full overview of policy recommendations is provided in the briefing.

4     In Focus: TEN-E Regulation

A first start is to address the lack of a definition of “renewable” and “low-carbon gases” in the TEN-E Regulation2.

The TEN-E Regulation is currently under revision – and the European Commission’s current proposal includes a new category for smart gas grids to: “support investments which integrate renewable and low-carbon gases”. However, the proposed regulation gives no definition or limitations, only a plurality of examples, and does not safeguard that investments under this category contribute to actual emission reduction.

Our recommendation is clear: The TEN-E Regulation must be amended to include a clear definition and transparent accounting of “renewable and low-carbon gases” based on GHG emission intensity – or the smart gas grids category must be removed altogether.


Find the briefing here: