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EU agriculture emissions limits need to be strengthened

European legislation on tackling air pollution from agricultural sources “needs to be strengthened” according to NGO the European Environment Bureau (EEB)

European legislation on tackling air pollution from agricultural sources “needs to be strengthened” according to NGO the European Environment Bureau (EEB).

According to EEB, agriculture is the main source of ammonia and methane emissions in Europe

According to EEB, agriculture is the main source of ammonia and methane emissions in Europe

Yesterday (April 30) the EEB, which represents 140 environmental organisations in Europe, launched an infographic to highlight the impact on air quality of the agricultural sector, which it says is the main source of ammonia (NH3) and methane (CH4) in the EU.

The EEB claims that emissions reductions from agriculture over the past 30 years for both of these pollutants “have not been as impressive as reductions of pollutants from other sectors”.

And, with discussions currently taking place at EU level over updating air quality limits in the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive, the EEB has also published a position paper setting out how it believes the legislation should be strengthened to cut emissions from agriculture.

Following fears that the legislative proposals could be scrapped altogether, the European Commission said in January that it intends to bring forward a modified proposal for updating its Clean Air legislation “in the course of ongoing negotiations” (see AirQualityNews.com story).

In these proposals, according to the EEB: “It is important that the ceilings fixed for both ammonia and methane are ambitious and lead to real efforts from farmers to reduce the pollution they emit. If they are not, other sectors already contributing to emissions cuts will be under pressure to deliver even greater emissions reductions and EU citizens will be condemned to breathe dirty air well beyond 2030.”

Infographic

EEB agriculture infographic (click to enlarge)

EEB agriculture infographic (click to enlarge)

Entitled ‘How agricultural emissions affect our health’, the EEB infographic explains that the agricultural sector – through activities such as livestock digestion, synthetic fertilisers and manure spreading and storage – is responsible for 40% methane emissions and 90% of ammonia emissions in the EU.

It adds that ammonia and methane a major contributors to particulate matter and ozone which are “the most dangerous pollutants for human health”, as well as contributing to plant damage, eutrophication, acidification, acid rains, greenhouse gas emissions and ozone formation.

Demands

As a result, the EEB position paper calls for “ambitious” objectives in the revised NEC Directive to tackle agricultural emissions and sets out several specific demands to EU legislators:

  • Ambitious Methane ERCs must be set for 2020 and 2025 and should be made legally binding and form a linear trajectory towards the achievement of the 2030 ERCs.
  • Ammonia’s emissions reduction commitments should be made more ambitious and legally binding also for 2025.
  • Member States develop codes of good practice and/or specific action programmes to be made mandatory for farmers as part of the national air pollution control programmes (NAPCPs).
  • Annex III should include additional measures in order to better address the entire agricultural sector.
  • Flexibility mechanisms, especially any form of pollution compensation scheme allowing trade-off between pollutants, should be rejected.

The paper also sets out a number of possible air pollution mitigation measures for the agricultural sectors, such as more covered storage for manure, better management of fertilisers, land restoration, and reducing deforestation.

Related Links:

EEB position paper: ‘Clean air from our farms’

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