AUTHORS: Anne Maréchal – Ben Allen
A new IEEP report reviews the agriculture sector’s mitigation potential and its contribution to reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (methane and nitrous oxide), which are reported under the current Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) and proposed Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR).
The study shows significant potential for the agriculture sector to contribute to ESD/ESR targets cost efficiently while delivering environmental co-benefits, without impacting production. The evidence suggests implementing only cost-efficient mitigation actions, combined with very limited policy support would reduce non-CO2 agricultural emissions by over 8% by 2030 and result in very limited or no impact on production.
The tools to realise these reductions are already in place. Many mitigation actions are simple, cheap, well-established techniques that can result in wider environmental benefits such as planting cover crops or changing livestock diets. In addition, the EU’s CAP policy toolkit can help support Member States and farmers implement these actions in practice. If the right mix of supporting conditions and safeguards are used, climate mitigation actions in the agriculture sector could complement other objectives of the sector, such as viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and a balanced territorial development.
In spite of this, it appears many Member States have not yet adopted policies that would trigger the adoption of mitigation actions by the farming sector at the scale and intensity necessary to deliver lasting emission reductions. This ambition has been limited in part by concerns over impact on production, mitigation cost, and the potential for the sector to offset its emissions against removals in the broader land-using sectors (LULUCF).
As the EU moves towards its 2020 and 2030 climate goals, the agriculture sector will have to play an increasing role in the EU’s climate mitigation efforts. At present, agriculture’s share of economy-wide emissions grows as other ESD/ESR sectors (waste, transport and buildings) emissions reduce. Reducing emissions further will become more challenging, and competition for offsetting against carbon removals in the land-using sectors will increase. As the land-using sector has the potential to both reduce emissions and increase removals, agriculture has a major opportunity to show leadership in the EU’s climate efforts. However, a clear long-term strategy is needed to set the direction for agriculture and help mainstream non-CO2 emission reductions as part of the sector’s core activities.