News19 December 2017BrusselsAgriculture and Rural Development
EU agricultural outlook: European emissions linked to agriculture set to decrease by 2030
European greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions linked to agriculture are set to decrease by 2030 thanks to modern farming techniques reducing the use and improving the efficiency of inputs such as fertiliser. These are among the findings of the EU agricultural markets outlook report for 2017-2030, published on 18 December 2017, which looks at the expected development of certain environmental indicators such as emissions of greenhouse gases, air pollutants and nitrogen.
According to the report total non-CO² greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are expected to decrease by 1.5% by 2030, compared to 2008. Most emissions of non CO² greenhouse gases (i.e. methane and nitrous oxide) in agriculture originate directly or indirectly from animal production – this sector will be directly responsible for 72% of those emissions in 2030, assuming emissions from manure on the field are allocated to the livestock sector. The vast majority of methane emissions (85%) will come from ruminants’ digestion.
GHG gas emissions sources in the EU in 2030 (million t CO2 equivalent)
Source: DG JRC, based on the 2016 CAPRI baseline.
Ammonia emissions linked to agriculture in Europe are expected to decline by approximately 10% between 2008 and 2030. Animal and crop production releases ammonia into the atmosphere, with more than 90% of these emissions associated with agriculture. Most of the ammonia emissions are related to manure management – approximately 80% – and mineral fertiliser use – approximately 20%. The release of ammonia in the atmosphere combines with other forms of air polluters, contributing to the formation of a particulate matter with strong negative impacts on human health.
Projected change in EU ammonia emissions, by source (million t of NH3)
Source: DG JRC, based on the 2016 CAPRI baseline
These reductions will occur despite an increase in meat, milk and dairy production. This shows that the efficiency of this production is an important factor in lowering emissions, in addition to, for example, changes in herd composition and evolving manure management systems.
In 2030, the projected average nitrogen surplus in the EU is expected to be close to 63kg of nitrogen per ha, 2.6% lower than in 2008. The nitrogen surplus of a farm is the balance between inputs and outputs of nitrogen to and from the farm. High levels of nitrogen surplus impact the atmosphere and surface and underground water, leading to pollution and decrease of water and air quality.
The expected reduction in nitrogen surplus by 2030 is due to a projected general increased in nitrogen use efficiency, although the levels differ considerably between regions of Europe. Where a reduction in herd size is expected, the nitrogen surplus will decrease more significantly. Similarly, the average nitrogen surplus increases where animal numbers are planned to increase as well.
Further information and data can be found in the EU agricultural outlook report for 2017-2030, along with an outlook for EU agricultural markets such as arable crops, the meat and dairy sector, and the fruit and vegetables sector. The issue of the environmental impact of agriculture is also discussed during the EU agricultural outlook conference in Brussels on 19 December.