A desperate need for new solutions in the EU Methane Strategy

Technological developments, such as methane hoods coupled with alternative feed compositions, could allow us to reduce agricultural methane emissions; however, scaling back on livestock will not solve the problem, argues Asger Christensen.
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By Asger Christensen

Asger Christensen (DK, RE) is the AGRI Committee opinion rapporteur on the EU strategy to reduce methane emissions

18 Mar 2021

It is crucial that we reduce methane emissions. These account for over 10 percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions; a reduction could help us significantly in achieving our climate targets. We are in desperate need of new solutions, which is why I am delighted to oversee the European Parliament’s proposal to reduce the EU agricultural sector’s methane emissions.

The European Commission presented its Methane Strategy last year, and the Parliament will now consider amendments to the final bill. I believe it should focus on two key issues: technology and alternative feed.

“The demand for meat will continue to rise in the future, and if it is not produced in Europe, the meat and dairy industry will relocate to other markets”

We need to invest in technological development, for example developing methane hoods that can absorb greenhouse gases from stables. Technology is key to combating climate change, but there is a crucial need for further investment.

Unfortunately, farmers do not have the capacity to fi nance this new technology on their own; we therefore need the EU to finance this development to ensure we can reach our common goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

We also need to adjust the feeding composition for livestock. There is a great deal of untapped potential in altering animal feed to ensure cows produce less methane. Some farmers have experimented with processed flax seeds and have successfully reduced methane emissions substantially. This is just one of the many ways methods available. Other experiments include seaweed or algae. It is clear we need further research to determine the best and most-effective ways of reducing emissions.

As spokesperson for the Parliament’s Methane Strategy, my ambition is for the EU to invest even more in new technologies and to support experiments with alternative feed compositions. However, some politicians claim that Member States should be forced to cut down on livestock, which I do not agree with. This could actually be detrimental for the climate.

The demand for meat will continue to rise in the future, and if it is not produced in Europe, the meat and dairy industry will relocate to other markets. If the production of meat and milk moves outside the EU, it may be to countries where the restrictions on carbon footprint are often laxer.

Thus pushing the industry out of the EU does not actually solve the problem of carbon emissions, it just moves it elsewhere, which would be short-sighted if we want to fight climate change effectively.

Technological development and alternative feeds are by far the best solutions for reducing methane emissions in the EU, as it will also enable us to create more jobs and generate wealth, thus providing welfare for people across Europe.

Anyone who thinks that cutting down on the level of livestock across Europe is the best approach to fighting climate change, should remember the rising demand for meat and needs to consider where the burgeoning middle classes in Africa, Asia and South America will source their meat and dairy products.

 

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