MEPs on the EU Parliament’s agriculture committee in Brussels have voted against binding targets to cut methane and ammonia emissions from the sector, drawing criticism from environmental groups
MEPs on the EU Parliament’s agriculture committee in Brussels have voted against binding targets to cut methane and ammonia emissions from the sector, drawing criticism from environmental groups.
Committee members yesterday (May 28) recommended that the European Commission’s plans to set stricter methane reduction targets should be scrapped and also proposed a more flexible regime for ammonia emissions.
The agriculture sector is the main source of ammonia and methane emissions in the EU through livestock digestion, manure and slurry spreading and storage, as well as synthetic fertilisers. Methane and ammonia transform in the air to become ozone and particulate matter respectively.
But, highlighting farmers’ efforts at reducing emissions in recent years, with a 30% drop in ammonia emissions across the EU since 1990, agriculture MEPs said the plans would increase the regulatory burden on farmers for pollutants that can already be controlled in other EU legislation.
Committee members also said the proposals could endanger the pasturing of animals, as placing cattle in closed stables to stop methane emissions, instead of allowing them to roam in fields, would compromise livestock welfare.
As well as scrapping the proposed 2030 emission targets for methane and ammonia for being too strict, the MEPs called for the Commission to draw up a new proposal for revised ammonia reduction targets by the end of 2016, which would “ensure a level playing fieldâ€? while also cutting emissions.
The Agriculture committee said that measures to reduce atmospheric ammonia “should be cost-effective, based on scientifically obtained data and scientific conclusions while taking into account scientific progress and previous measures already implementedâ€?.
Netherlands MEP Jan Huitema, Rapporteur for the plans, warned that setting new targets would lead to “over-legislationâ€? and an “unjustified burden for animal keepersâ€?.
He pointed to the EU act on national greenhouse gas emission reduction and measures in the 2014-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as existing regulations which could help to reduce air pollution emissions from agriculture.
Mr Huitema said: “For years the EU has laws to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and they are effective. The new proposals from the European Commission would increase the regulatory burden by trying to regulate the same thing twice.
“Moreover, it could endanger the pasturing of animals. Farmers are in the position to make a valuable contribution in the fight against climate change, as long as they have the flexibility to do so. The Agriculture committee has sent a clear signal to the Commission on it stance.â€?
The European Environment Bureau (EEB), which represents 140 environmental organisations in Europe, said yesterday’s vote meant the agriculture MEPs had given the “green light to air pollution from farmingâ€?.
The EEB, which had last month called for strengthened limits to cut agriculture emissions (see AirQualityNews.com story), criticised the agriculture committee’s stance, arguing that pollution from the sector is “unlikely to decrease unless the EU takes actionâ€?.
Louise Duprez, EEB’s senior policy officer for air pollution and noise, said: “Today‘s vote would give farmers a free ride to pollute in the years to come. Essentially, the Members of Parliament who voted today have ignored the enormous impact of air pollution on our health and our economy. If every economic sector gets exemptions like this, Europe would fail in its fight against air pollution.â€?
EEB’s senior policy for agriculture and bioenergy, Faustine Defossez, said:
“This vote may be perceived as doing farmers a big favour. It’s actually the opposite. Solutions to cutting emissions from farming exist but won’t happen if this Committee’s position is supported by the rest of the European Parliament. And farmers will continue being part of the problem instead of becoming part of the solution.â€?
The agriculture committee’s recommended amendments, voted yesterday by 29 votes in favour to 12 against, with three abstentions, will now go to the Parliament’s environment committee for scrutiny in July. The environment committee is leading on the proposals.