EU mulls fertiliser cut to curb farming emissions: draft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is mulling targets to cut fertiliser use in the European Union over the next decade to bring the agriculture sector into line with its climate policy aims, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer works on her field near the town of Langadas, in Greece, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

The draft, due to be published on Wednesday, proposes EU rules on sustainable food production and consumption which the Commission said would help drive the sector’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. It would cut its contribution to climate change and curb the EU’s rising obesity rates, it said.

“A shift to a sustainable food system can bring environmental, social and health benefits, offer economic gains and generate a ‘bounce forward’ out of the current crisis onto a sustainable path,” it said.

The proposal will include targets to cut use of fertilisers and sales of antibiotics for animal and fish farming by 2030 – although the specific numbers for these targets were left out of the draft document.

Overuse of fertilisers contributes to soil and water pollution and has reduced biodiversity in rivers and lakes, the draft said.

Synthetic fertilisers emit nitrous oxide and account for just under 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the OECD.

The Commission’s proposal aims to bring agriculture - which contributes around 10% of EU greenhouse gas emissions - in line with its target to reduce the bloc’s net emissions to zero by 2050.

The Commission declines to comment on unpublished drafts, which are working documents and are subject to change until they are adopted.

The draft also includes plans to revise EU animal welfare legislation and curb the environmental impact of animal farming, which makes up about 70% of EU agriculture emissions.

The Commission will help grow the market for “innovative feed additives” that cut emissions from livestock farming and require food product labels to disclose the origin of milk or meat ingredients.

Reporting by Kate Abnett and Marine Strauss, Editing by Angus MacSwan