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11 January 2016  

Livestock production responsible for 80% of EU emissions

A recently published EU-funded report has found that livestock production is responsible for approximately 80% of the impact of EU agriculture on climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss. The report’s authors discovered that while agricultural activities are a major source of pollutants and land use change, livestock production systems dominate the environmental consequences.

Livestock production systems currently 180 million hectares of the land surface of the European Union, equivalent to 65% of all agricultural land in the EU. According to the study, published in Environmental Research Letters in November 2015, livestock production has been responsible for 80% of the total emissions of ammonia and NOx resulting from agriculture, contributing to the formation of particulate matter and tropospheric ozone which has a detrimental impact on air quality.

This figure of 80% includes emissions caused by agriculture in other sectors or occurring outside of the EU territory, such as feed imports and transport, with 10% of the emissions arising as a result of feed imports, and emissions from land-use change, which the authors discovered makes up for as much as 39% of total emissions. According to the study, livestock is also responsible for 76% of terrestrial biodiversity loss caused by agriculture, which can primarily be attributed to feed production.

The reports’ authors conclude that in order to address the negative environmental impacts of livestock production a combination of technical measures need to taken in order to reduce emissions, the current intensity of land-use, and demand side measures need to be taken to reduce food waste and change dietary habits.

For more information, download the report.