The agriculture sector is the primary emitter of ammonia, with shares of around 95%. Ammonia emissions are traditionally considered as the principle driver of eutrophication of ecosystems and as cause for acidification of soils, resulting in loss of biodiversity. In 2010, 62% of ecosystems and 71% of protected Natura 2000 areas were exposed to nitrogen deposition above safe levels.
There is however compelling scientific evidence that ammonia emissions are also a threat to human health: ammonia contributes to formation of (secondary) particulate matter (here ammonia is the driving chemical component regarding the formation of these particles). Particulate matter (comprising of both the directly emitted primary and the in the atmosphere formed secondary particulate matter) is the pollutant currently most problematic for human health in the EU.
Indeed, research findings confirm that in Europe agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to fine particle concentrations. The French National Center for Scientific Research determined that 62% of the fine particles in severe air pollution episode in Paris during spring 2014 were ammonia-induced. Furthermore, as ammonia itself is also able to travel long distances, it contributes significantly to background concentrations of particulate matter across the EU. This way it can contribute significantly to high concentrations of particulate matter in all urban areas.
About 80% of agricultural ammonia emissions derive from manure, including livestock breeding, manure storage and manure application, with the remaining 20% emitted by inorganic fertilisers. A range of proven measures, from livestock feeding strategies, to covered storage and more efficient application to land, offer the most cost-effective opportunities for reducing emissions. Clean technologies that can be applied in an economically viable way exist, but are so far only applied extensively in relatively few EU countries.
>> This session will focus on the effect of agriculture on air quality, the possibilities to reduce the burden on health and environment given the specific role of the agricultural sector in feeding a growing world population. The audience will be able to interact with the panel.
The Commission has published a draft of the first Clean Air Outlook here. It will be finalised after the Forum and taking into account its discussions