New Zealand farmers grappling with the costs of farm greenhouse gas emissions may be sharing that load with European farmers as the EU assesses a “polluter pays” principle for agricultural emissions similar to NZ’s.
The move was prompted by a 2021 report that noted that, since 2013, climate action had been the main objective of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This was to the extent the CAP spent £100 billion (about $178bn) or a quarter of its total budget on mitigating and adapting to climate change from 2014-2020.
Yet despite the enormity of that spend there was little impact of agricultural emissions, which did not significantly alter for over a decade.
The report found livestock emissions account for half the EU’s agricultural gas emissions, and even though four methods of reducing emissions were identified, the CAP failed to incentivise their uptake.
There was no limit on livestock numbers and no incentives offered to reduce them.
Meantime, as livestock emissions remained static, emissions from fertiliser increased between 2010 and 2018, again with no incentives through the CAP to reduce their use.
The report’s authors recommended that tougher action be taken to reduce emissions and that pricing them was one way to achieve that.
It suggested member countries be invited to establish a target for reducing gas emissions from their agricultural sectors and ensure the CAP provides more effective incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and fertilisers.
The report backing the survey also took aim at the impact that draining organic soils has had on agricultural emissions. This included a recommendation to incentivise landowners to restore drained peat soils.
Like NZ, the EU has an emissions trading scheme (ETS) and, also like NZ, it does not capture agricultural greenhouse gases.
The proposal has been put to the industry for feedback.
The EU study proposal is aiming to look at how a separate ETS covering only gas emissions from the agri-sector could be designed.
With echoes of NZ’s He Waka Eke Noa, the plan would require farmers to surrender emission allowances equivalent to their gas emissions, and these allowances could be purchased from the government, generating revenues to reward farmers and foresters who remove carbon.