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The urgency to cut methane from agriculture

Providing quality heating for our planet since 4 billion bc

Methane is not just another greenhouse gas. It's a greenhouse gas on steroids


times more powerful

than CO2

Scientists say that cutting methane is the most important thing we can do right now

to keep global heating under 1.5 degree Celsius

Methane has to be cut by


by 2030

The EU produces about 15 million tonnes of methane every year

that's the equivalent of 100 coal-fired power plants

Over half of these emissions come from animal farming

In the EU, the highest-emitting sectors are:








The EU has committed to cutting its methane emissions

"Today global methane emissions grow faster than at any time in the past. So cutting back on methane emissions is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is the lowest-hanging fruit"

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

The Global Methane Pledge commits to a


reduction by 2030

The EU is cherry-picking

The European Commission is ignoring the largest source of methane and is taking concrete actions only in the energy sector

Breeding breathing power plants

Farmed animals, especially cattle, represent 8 million tonnes of methane in the EU, the equivalent of 50 coal power plants


methane emissions are from enteric fermentation


from manure management

Measures in the livestock sector could reduce overall EU methane emissions by as much as 36%

Maximum reduction potential of EU emissions


Reduction measures of livestock methane emissions (maximum potential compared to EU total methane emissions):

Livestock sector






So what's the EU's beef with tackling livestock methane?

Putting the CAP on Capitalism

Farm lobby groups, major meat and dairy corporations are working hard to maintain the status quo: huge subsidies going to intensive factory farming

Reducing livestock Methane emissions is as easy as ABC


Regulating meat and dairy companies to ensure they reduce and report their methane emissions


Promoting the uptake of healthier diets with more plants and less and better meat and dairy


Supporting more sustainable food production practices, such as shifting to agroecology

If the EU is to take its climate targets seriously, it can no longer ignore methane emissions from animal farming.

Tell the European Commission to act now

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Our climate system is on the brink of collapse, and we have a very limited window of opportunity to mitigate dangerous climate change.

The rapidly shrinking time frames for action mean that we must focus intensely on reducing methane.

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas and one of the most powerful. Methane's global warming potential is 82.5-times stronger per mass unit than carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20-year timescale, and 28-36-times more powerful over 100 years. Equally important is the time methane survives once released into the atmosphere. Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for centuries or even millennia, methane has a climate response of only about 12 years, after which it degrades to CO2 and water vapour.

Therefore, a rapid reduction in methane emissions will slow the rate of warming in the short term. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates that the scale of any reduction in global methane emissions could decide whether global warming can be kept below 1.5 degree Celsius and whether tipping points, which would accelerate irreversible climate change, could be avoided.

In 2018, the IPCC said the world only had until 2030 to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase goal. According to UNEP's Global Methane Assessment, 45% of global methane emissions must be cut this decade to stay within this frame.


Priding itself as a climate leader, the EU, alongside the United States, spearheaded the "Global Methane Pledge" - an initiative launched at the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. More than 110 countries have committed to the Pledge so far and collectively signed up to the goal of "reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030". In her speech announcing the Pledge, EU President von der Leyen stressed that cutting methane emissions is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming.

While the Pledge represents an important milestone, committing signatories adding momentum to the need to reduce anthropogenic methane emissions across all sectors, it falls 10-15% short of the cuts needed to firmly ensure consistency with the 1.5 degree Celsius target. In April 2021, using a business-as-usual baseline, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) calculated in its Global Methane Assessment (GMA) that "global methane emissions must be reduced by between 40-45% by 2030 to achieve least-cost pathways that limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius this century".


The EU's review for its 2030 Climate Target Plan concluded that stepping up the level of ambition for reductions in all GHGs to 55% by 2030 would require an accelerated effort to tackle methane emissions.

As an integral part of the European Green Deal, EU decision-makers adopted an "EU Methane Strategy" in 2020, setting out measures and actions to cut methane across all three high-emitting sectors: energy, agriculture and waste.

However, the EU Methane Strategy has translated so far only into a relatively weak proposal for the energy sector published in December 2021. 53% of EU's methane emissions from animal farming keep being ignored.


(Breakdown of reduction potential from CE Delft's study Methane Reduction Potential in the EU)

Transitioning to healthier diets with less and better meat and dairy has the highest potential, leading to as much as 37% reduction of methane emissions in the livestock sector. As this would lead to a reduction of the number of animals farmed, an additional related benefit is that EU farmers could adopt better agricultural practices, such as agroecology, while some areas could be reforested.

In addition, some practices at farm level, such as reducing methane from manure yield about 4 to 7% of methane reduction of EU livestock methane, whereas other measures relating to animal husbandry can achieve slightly more uncertain reduction, ranging from 4% to 23%.


The EU's massive farming subsidies (under the Common Agriculture Policy - representing a third of the EU's total budget) have a long-standing history of supporting large agribusiness interests, encouraging overproduction and negatively impacting biodiversity, rather than supporting farmers towards a transition to respectful farming pratices such as agroecology. A 2019 Greenpeace report showed that between 69% (€28.5 billion) and 79% (€32.6 billion) of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy spending went to livestock farms or farms producing fodder for livestock, representing between 18 and 20% of the EU's total annual budget in 2017.

Copa-Cogeca, one of the largest agribusiness lobby groups in Europe, along with pesticides and food industry giants, have heavily lobbied to water down the alignment of the CAP with the EU Green Deal and other climate targets and are actively trying to derail the EU's Farm-to-Fork strategy.

  1. Governments can drive the necessary transition by regulating meat and dairy companies to adopt credible climate targets, which include their supply chain emissions (so-called Scope 3) and concrete action plans to meet these targets. Such action plans should include concrete measures to cut methane emissions.
  2. European governments should implement policies to make healthier and plant-rich foods more accessible, affordable and convenient - with special attention paid to more vulnerable groups. At the heart of the EU’s proposals, following Farm-to-Fork strategy should be measures to support healthier diets. Governments should incorporate elements of sustainability into their national dietary health guidelines (countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark are already taking the lead) and must adopt accompanying strategies for their implementation. For example, public procurement can be instrumental in deploying demand for plant-based products. Member States can also impose national targets for meat sales reduction in supermarkets. Finally, Member States should consider fiscal measures, from incentives (rewards of monetary value such as subsidies or vouchers) to disincentives such as taxes on meat products. A recent poll demonstrated that 70% of Western Europeans would be supportive of a tax system that would make products such as meat more expensive and reduce taxes on healthy products like vegetables and fruits.
  3. The policies driving lower intake of meat and dairy product should lead to reduction in animal numbers, which could trigger positive transformation of the EU’s food production system, moving from intensive farming to agroecology, a farming model which promotes the application of ecological and social concepts and farming practices that restore ecosystems, increase biodiversity and mitigate climate change, while supporting farmers and rural communities. The move from intensive farming to agroecology is gaining traction and a number of studies confirm its benefits, demonstrating that it would be possible in Europe to provide healthy and culturally diverse food for Europeans, while maintaining export capacity and reducing GHG emissions from the agricultural sector by 40%.