NFU wants new measure for livestock emissions 

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has formalised its support to change how the impact of methane on climate change is measured in a move that could have implications for livestock emissions.

The union supports adoption of the GWP* metric which some scientists have argued gives a more accurate representation of the emissions from ruminant livestock such as sheep and cattle who produce methane as part of the digestive process.

GWP100 is the current accepted metric for measuring greenhouse gases and is used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but critics argue it does not account for the removal of short-lived gases like methane from the atmosphere.

Because methane dissipates in the atmosphere after as little as 10 years some believe the use of GWP100, whereby methane emissions are converted into a carbon dioxide equivalent, overstates the impact of livestock emissions on the climate.

The GWP*alternative has been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford and in New Zealand. The NFU is now calling for a unified approach to dual accounting with government and industry reporting on emissions from agriculture at the national scale using both GWP100 and GWP*.

 “Government support is needed in order for farmers to access the capital investment they need to implement interventions to reduce methane and other greenhouse gases,” said NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw as he reiterated farmers’ commitment to reducing emissions. “The NFU will continue to engage with Defra on how methane reductions are recorded, incentivised and valued both by the public and private markets.”

The NFU has set a target for agriculture to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 but a reduction in livestock numbers and/or meat consumption does not form part of its roadmap.

In 2019, agriculture was the source of 10% of total UK GHG emissions, according to government data, and is estimated to have been the source of 47% of the UK’s methane emissions in the same year. Enteric fermentation related to cattle and sheep was the main cause followed by manure management.

UK emissions from agriculture have been falling slower than in other industry sectors and the Climate Change Committee has consistently warned that government policies to reduce emissions from agriculture and land use are insufficiently ambitious to meet national climate targets.

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