Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Europe

Non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from the EU agriculture sector are covered by the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), which provides for national annual emissions targets that refer to emissions from all effort sharing sectors. Between 2005 and 2020, agricultural emissions remained stable. Estimates for 2021 indicate that this trend will continue. Based on national projections, only a modest EU-level decline of 2% is expected by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. If currently planned additional measures are implemented, a 6% reduction is expected highlighting the need for further action to reduce non-CO2 emissions in the agriculture sector.

Published: ‒ 25min read

The European Green Deal sets out the EU’s commitment to shift into a climate neutral economy by 2050, where all sectors shall contribute. The 2021 European Climate Law turns this climate neutrality objective into a legal commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Agricultural GHG emissions are covered by the EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) and Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), which set annual targets for each Member State for the periods 2013-2020 and 2021-2030, respectively . Emissions from transport, buildings and waste are also covered by national ESD and ESR targets, which collectively aim to reduce total EU emissions from the sectors covered by around 10% by 2020 and 30% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

CH4 emissions from enteric fermentation and N2O emissions from soils are responsible for more than 80% of total agricultural GHG emissions. CH4 from manure management is the third most important source of emissions, accounting for about 10%. The remaining sources make relatively small contributions, accounting for less than 10% of agricultural GHG emissions in total.

Between 2005 and 2021, the EU’s agricultural GHG emissions have an overall slight decreasing trend of 2% in 2021, and Member State projections indicate a 2 % decline in agricultural GHG emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. If additional measures currently planned by Member States are implemented, this could increase to a decline of 6%.

Based on these projected reductions in agricultural emissions, Member States will have to achieve much greater reductions in other ESR sectors to meet national targets. A European Commission impact assessment highlights the challenges in further reducing non-CO2 GHG emissions from agriculture .

Although agricultural GHG emissions changed very little at the EU level between 2005 and 2020, trends varied widely at the national level, with emissions increasing in 14 and decreasing in 13 Member States. For instance, emissions decreased by more than 10% in Croatia, Greece, Malta and Romania, and increased by more than 10% in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary and Latvia.

Based on projections, most Member States anticipate a continuation of past trends if existing measures remain in place. However, some Member States anticipate a reversal of trends. For instance, although emissions decreased in Greece and Romania between 2005 and 2020, these countries predict that emissions will begin to increase if only existing measures remain in place.

The planned implementation of additional measures is expected to have an especially strong impact on agricultural emissions in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain, namely a reduction of 10% or more by 2030 relative to projections based on only existing measures. Eleven Member States have not reported any planned additional measures expected to reduce emissions more than existing measures.

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