ETC HE Report 2022/21: Emissions of ammonia and methane from the agricultural sector. Emissions from livestock farming.

The agricultural sector, and in particular livestock, are the main emitters of ammonia and methane in Europe. While ammonia contributes to the formation of secondary particles, methane is a greenhouse gas, a precursor of ozone and can have an indirect effect on particle concentrations. This study develops methods and provides elements of analysis on ammonia and methane emissions due to livestock farming in Europe: the geographical distribution of these emissions, the main types of farms and activities they originate from, technical measures to mitigate them, their impacts on human health and the environment.

23 May 2023

Laure Malherbe (Ineris), Richard German (Aether), Florian Couvidat (Ineris, Laurène Zanatta (Ineris), Lewis Blannin (Aether), Aiden James (Aether), Laurent Létinois (Ineris), Simone Schucht (Ineris), Brice Berthelot (Ineris), Justine Raoult (Aether)

According to published data, the agricultural sector is the largest emitter of ammonia (NH3) and methane (CH4) in the air in Europe and livestock farming is by far the main sub-sector responsible for those emissions.


In that context this study examines the current state of NH3 and CH4 emissions from livestock farming in Europe.


First, a methodology is defined and implemented to estimate NH3 and CH4 emissions at NUTS2 level from Eurostat data and EMEP/EEA and IPPC emission factors. Installations with more than 100 livestock units, i.e. a small fraction of the farms, account for a major fraction of the emissions. Cattle appears to be the first source of NH3 and CH4 emissions, followed by swine and, as far as NH3 is concerned, poultry. The possibility of estimating NH3 and CH4 emissions at higher resolution (NUTS3) is then explored.


In a second part, key mitigation measures to reduce NH3 and CH4 emissions are reviewed, focusing on techniques and good practices applicable to cattle, pigs and poultry. Opportunities to reduce ammonia emissions from livestock operations, are well identified and in part, already implemented. The possibilities to reduce CH4 emissions from cattle farms, the main emitters, are mainly related to feed adaptation and the use of feed additives.

Projections from Member States and published scenarios on livestock number and/or production levels are then analysed since this represents an equally, if not more, important driver of emissions compared to the uptake of mitigation measures.


Lastly, the impacts of NH3 and CH4 emissions on human health are studied, applying a methodology based on chemistry-transport modelling and health impact assessment. PM2.5 concentrations, and also ozone concentrations in the case of CH4, avoided by a given reduction of NH3 and CH4 emissions are estimated and mapped. When taken as an EU27 average, the avoided damage costs derived from these results are about 30 to 100 k€ per tonne of non-emitted NH3 and about 0.05 to 0.15k€ per tonne of non-emitted CH4. The assessment of the impacts on ecosystems is briefly introduced from a methodological point of view.