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On October 14, the European Commission published a Methane Strategy, outlining its commitment to reduce methane emissions in agriculture, as well as in the energy and waste sectors, by 35-37% by 2030.

This commitment is regarded as a key contribution towards the EU’s aim of cutting GHG emissions as a whole by 55% by 2030.

The strategy notes that “methane emissions from EU agriculture have decreased by approximately 22% since 1990, mainly due to a reduction in ruminant livestock numbers,”. But also points out that the increase in herd sizes over the last five years has triggered a “slight upturn.” It argues that “further decreases can be achieved by more sustainable production through innovation and technology,” as well as through “more sustainable diets.” However, the document recognises that easier gains can be found in the energy sector, where it is believed emissions can be cut “fastest and cheapest, half of it at net zero cost.”

The aim for agriculture is to “deliver emission reductions decoupled from production,” and the strategy suggests the possibility to achieve this through improvements in animal diets, herd management, manure management (notably its use in fertilisers and biogas generation), breeding, herd health and animal welfare.

Key actions proposed for the agricultural sector include:

  • An inventory of best practices to reduce emissions will be produced by the Commission by the end of 2021.
  • An expert group in life-cycle methane emissions metrics is to be established by June 2021. It will address questions on livestock, manure and feed management, feed characteristics, new technologies and practices and other issues, based on relevant international work.
  • Carbon farming initiatives are to be encouraged within national CAP Strategic Plans.
  • In order to ensure accurate measurement and reporting for emissions in the sector, a digital carbon navigator template and guideline on common pathways for the quantitative calculation of GHGs and removals will be developed by 2022, for use at farm level.

The full strategy can be found here

ICOS had submitted feedback, which can be read here, on the draft strategy in August outlining the importance of recognising the difference between fossil methane emissions in the energy sector and biogenic emissions as in agriculture, which have a significantly shorter life-cycle and are difficult to mitigate given their biological nature.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive