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EXCLUSIVE / Europe’s farming lobby has warned MEPs the industry will quit the European Union if they vote to cap agricultural gas emissions in a crunch vote this Wednesday (28 October) in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
MEPs will vote in plenary on the Environment Committee’s report on the revised National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, which limits different types of air pollution in each EU nation.
Agriculture, which has a notoriously powerful lobby, is responsible for 40% of methane emissions in the EU and 95% of ammonia pollution, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). The EEB branded the mailshot a form of blackmail.
When contacted by EurActiv, Copa-Cogeca denied farmers would quit the EU. “We do not say we will quit the EU but we call for realistic targets otherwise production will be shifted to non EU countries where emissions are worse,” said a spokesperson.
Methane is a more short-lived but much more powerful global-warming greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It also tranforms into ozone, an air pollutant. Ammonia causes soil nitrification and acidification.
The revised NEC Directive is the first time the European Commission has tried to cap methane. The executive is pushing for a 30% methane reduction by 2030, backed by Environment Committee MEPs, and a 27% ammonia cut, which MEPs increased to 29%.
Copa-Cogeca is a Brussels-based lobby association representing European farmers and agri-cooperatives. On Friday, the group’s secretary general Pekka Pesonen emailed MEPs a letter, which EurActiv has seen.
He said, “The targets […] are undoubtedly detrimental for the European farming community, the environment, the economy and the society as a whole becuase the only way to reach them is by reducing production in Europe and shift it to third countries.
“This huge structural change will impact the vast majority of European farms and to the way our agricultural model is organised.”
The European People’s Party, the largest group in the Parliament, has tabled amendments removing the methane and ammonia caps from the bill. Copa-Cogeca are thought to have targeted MEPs in the other groups in the legislature.
Environmental campaigners poured scorn on what they described as a scandalous, empty threat to leave the bloc. They pointed out that agriculture sector was the only one pushing for preferential treatment. Unlike many other sectors, they said, its emissions reductions were slight, despite the availability of cost-effective technical solutions.
Pieter de Pous, the European Environmental Bureau’s (EEB) policy director said, “MEPs should not fall for these arguments which essentially constitute blackmail. Amendments to exempt farmers from pollution limits will favour the large agro-businesses who do most of the polluting, but they are certainly not in the public interest.”
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