Cows, pigs and other livestock in Europe produce more greenhouse gases each year than all the cars and vans in the bloc combined, when the impact of their diet is taken into account, new analysis shows from Greenpeace.
The increase in the production of meat and dairy products in Europe over the last decade has made agriculture a much larger source of emissions, but as governments have targeted renewable energy and transport in their areas. climate policies, initiatives to reduce the impact of food and agriculture on the climate are lagging behind.
In 2018, the latest year for which accurate data is available from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock on farms in the EU (including the UK) were responsible for the ‘equivalent of about 502 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, mainly via the methane they release. . This compares to the 656 million carbon dioxide coming from European cars and vans in the same year.
But when indirect greenhouse gas emissions are calculated, using established methods to estimate deforestation and land use changes associated with growing animal feed, the total annual emissions are equivalent to 704 million dollars. tons of carbon dioxide. The calculations are detailed in a new Greenpeace report titled Agriculture for failure, published Tuesday.
EU meat and dairy production increased by 9.5% between 2007 and 2018, which Greenpeace says resulted in an increase in annual emissions of 6%, or around 39 million tonnes . That would be the equivalent of putting 8.4 million new cars on the road.
If these increases continue, the EU is unlikely to meet its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Paris Agreement. Last week, the EU stepped up its emission reduction targets, announcing a 55% reduction target by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, as part of the European Green Agreement and ahead of major negotiations climate change next year.
Marco Contiero, director of agricultural policy for Greenpeace, said policymakers need to bring livestock emissions under control, or face missing carbon reduction targets. “European leaders have danced for too long around the climate impact of livestock,” he said. âThe science is clear, so are the numbers: we cannot avoid the worst of climate degradation if politicians continue to defend industrial production of meat and dairy products. Farm animals keep farting and burping – the only way to reduce emissions to necessary levels is to reduce their numbers. “
Halving intensive animal husbandry would reduce around 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, about as much as the total emissions of the 11 least emitting countries in Europe.
A spokesperson for the UK’s National Farmers’ Union said farmers are taking action, aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040. Agriculture in the UK is directly responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom, according to the NFU, without taking into account indirect emissions linked to food.
“If we want to achieve [the carbon neutrality goal], we must reduce all our greenhouse gas emissions, âthe spokesperson said. âIt is essential to focus on improving productivity here, while maintaining and improving our carbon storage in the grasslands and producing more renewable energy. “
Greenpeace calls for an end to public subsidies to industrial scale livestock farming as part of the EU’s common agricultural policy, as part of the bloc’s plans for a green deal. Such a policy is unlikely to win favor with the powerful agricultural lobbies of most major European countries, but policymakers will be under pressure to show how they can meet the EU’s climate goals without large-scale reforms. agriculture.
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