Climate measures in agriculture

The need and opportunities to accelerate the reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been underlined in a number of recent reports (see, for example, the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2018) or the IEEP report Net-Zero Agriculture in 2050: How to Get There (2019)). Following a period from 1990 to 2012 with a steady decrease in EU agricultural emissions amounting to 22% in total, these emissions have begun to increase since then, growing by 4% over the 2012-2017 period.

In this post, I examine the projected trend in agricultural emissions to 2030, drawing on the most recent European Environment Agency (EEA) report on Trends and Projections in Europe 2019 as well as the inventory of policies and measures that Member States have taken or plan to take to reduce these emissions in future.

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Climate policy in agriculture and carbon leakage

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a single country will usually lead to increased emissions in other countries – a phenomenon called carbon leakage (for simplicity, I will use the term carbon leakage although the same outcome also applies to other greenhouse gases). Various mechanisms contribute to this effect:

  • If climate policy increases production costs, this will reduce the competitiveness of domestic production relative to countries without or with a laxer climate policy. Consumers will shift their purchasing to the cheaper imported alternatives. The effect will be that some emissions-producing production will shift to third countries with the laxer climate policy – the competitiveness channel.
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