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MINNEAPOLIS/BERLINToday, the United States and the European Union announced a joint pledge to reduce methane emissions 30% by 2030. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), the agreement is an encouraging sign that the U.S. and EU recognize the urgent need to cut potent methane emissions, but the pledge is missing a strong commitment to take on a major source of methane: large-scale, industrial meat and dairy production.  

Agriculture contributes around 40% of global anthropogenic sources of methane emissions, with livestock accounting for 32% of agriculture emissions. Any global agreement must include concrete targets for methane reductions from large-scale industrial livestock systems.

In the U.S., rising agricultural methane emissions stem from large-scale hog and dairy factory farms and their liquid manure. This factory farm system is also linked to air and water pollution, the loss of independent family farms and harm to the quality of life for rural residents.

Fifty percent of methane emissions in the EU come from agriculture, primarily livestock, while unsustainable livestock practices have also led to significant nitrate and ammonia-related pollution.  

“Techno-fixes such as new feed additives and factory farm gas (or biogas digestors) are band aids on a broken system of rising animal numbers, more methane, and air, land and water pollution. The EU has missed a major opportunity in its recently finalized Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) revision to tackle methane. It should ensure that its climate package and methane strategy don’t make the same mistake. These policies must help European agriculture transition to agroecological practices rather than incentivizing industrial systems,” said Shefali Sharma, director of IATP’s European office.

For agricultural methane to decrease significantly, public policy in the U.S., EU and globally must begin to appropriately regulate livestock emissions and redirect public funds to support farmers in a Just Transition towards biodiverse, agroecological systems.

“Along with family farm and environmental justice organizations, IATP is calling on the Biden administration to address these emissions from factory farms by enforcing the Clean Air Act. Real action on methane must include a transition away from factory farms toward less emitting, agroecological systems,” said Ben Lilliston, IATP’s director of rural strategies and climate change.

Earlier this year, IATP outlined how the U.S. and the EU could lead in reducing methane emissions from large-scale factory farms.

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