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NFU vows to continue fight against methane emissions

By Andrew Burnyeat , 23-Dec-2016
Last updated on 23-Dec-2016 at 10:53 GMT2016-12-23T10:53:37Z

Belching cows emit methane gas which punctures the planet's ozone layer
Belching cows emit methane gas which punctures the planet's ozone layer

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says livestock producers need to keep up their efforts to reduce methane emissions, but said factors outside agriculture must be investigated as new research shows greenhouse gas levels are rising.

Cerys Jones, climate change advisor for the union, told GlobalMeatNews: “We remain committed to our efforts and targets as set out by existing EU [European Union] law on methane emissions. We support measures such as improving the diet and health of animals in order to limit methane emissions.” But she noted that the increase in emissions does not seem to correspond to any increase in agriculture “so we would have to look at other explanations” regarding the source.

The French laboratory for climate and environmental sciences Le Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE) helped compile the Global Methane Budget report showing that global methane emissions rose by an increased rate of more than 10 parts per billion annually (per year) in 2014 and 2015, compared to annual increases of 5.5 parts per billion during 2007-2012.

And a spokesperson for the report said: “A likely major driver of the recent rapid rise in global CH4 [methane] concentration is increased biogenic emissions mostly from agriculture.” Another potential source of more methane could be shale gas exploitation or ‘fracking’, which generates emission of the gas, which has 25 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

‘Best opportunity to slow climate change’

Methane is a good target for regulatory policies,” said Marielle Saunois, a researcher for the LSCE and participant in the project. And Robert Jackson, senior fellow at environmental specialists the Stanford Woods Institute, USA, which also contributed to the report, added: “Methane presents the best opportunity to slow climate change quickly. Carbon dioxide has a longer reach, but methane strikes faster.

One irony is that the release of the new figures coincided with a decision to scale back methane regulation within the European Union (EU), with the gas being removed from controls and monitoring requirements under a new EU national emissions ceiling directive that will come into force on December 31. This happened despite the opposition of the EU executive, the European Commission, which wanted methane restricted by EU regulation.

Commission environment spokesperson Iris Petsa said: “There is a strong air quality case for keeping the development of methane emissions in the member states under review and will consider measures for reducing those emissions, and where appropriate, submit a legislative proposal to that purpose.

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