EU animal farming exceeds combined climate impact of cars and vans

22 September 2020 

Greenhouse gas emissions from animal farming in the European Union eclipse that of all cars and vans in the region put together, according to a new study. 

Greenpeace’s European Unit published its “Farming for Failure” report where it found livestock farming accounted for 17 per cent of total emissions for the bloc and that a reduction in the number of farm animals is needed to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 

The figure was calculated using UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data and other peer-reviewed research. 

The analysis also found that yearly emissions from animal farming rose by 6 per cent between 2007 and 2018. 

The increase in CO2 would be equivalent to adding 8.4 million cars to European roads. 

Put another way, the greenhouse gas contribution from animal farming in the EU is 18 times more than that of the highest polluting coal station in Europe. 

The study also found that indirect greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming is almost half as much as the practice itself. 

Direct emissions come out to about 502 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, but when indirect contributions like animal feed production, land use and deforestation are accounted for, the figure jumps to 704 million tonnes. 

“Science is clear” 

To date, European leaders have danced around the climate impact of animal farming for “far too long” but the science is clear on its impact, according to Marco Contiero of Greenpeace EU. 

“Farm animals won’t stop farting and burping – the only way to cut emissions at the levels needed is to cut their numbers,” Mr. Contiero said. 

The potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from animal farming is therefore huge, Greenpeace argue. 

Halving emissions from the sector would save the equivalent of combined emissions for all sectors of the 11 lower emitting EU countries. 

If the target was a 75 per cent reduction, it would equate to the combined emissions from all industrial processes in the EU and the UK. 

The report comes just a day after the EU’s AgriFish Council met in regards to formulating the new Common Agricultural Policy for the 2021 to 2027 period. 

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told the Council that new policy must ensure “better environmental and climate outcomes” and stressed that climate is “the key issue” we face. 

40 per cent of the new CAP and at least 30 per cent of the Maritime Fisheries Fund will be allocated to climate action, however, the new policy will have a comparatively reduced budget. 

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Kayle Crosson