Ammonia emissions, 96% of which originate from agricultural activities, play an important role in the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). A new study, led by Elias Giannakis, EEWRC Associate Research Scientist in Water and Natural Resource Management Research and Economics, found that the economic benefits of avoiding premature mortality outweigh the costs of ammonia emissions abatement. This work has been featured on the “Science for Environment Policy”, a news service published by the European Commission, Directorate-General Environment and is available here.
CARE-C Associate Research Scientist Jonilda Kushta, who conducted the atmospheric modelling analysis together with Institute Professor Jos Lelieveld, notes that the regulation of agricultural ammonia emissions can be an effective control strategy for reducing PM2.5 pollution and associated health impacts, including premature mortality in Europe.
The study assessed the costs and benefits of four emission abatement options, namely, low nitrogen feed, covered manure storage, low-emission animal housing and techniques to improve or substitute urea fertilizer application, for the compliance of the agricultural sector with the 2020 ammonia emission reduction commitments of the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) 2016/2284/EU.
Emission reduction measures were required in 16 of the 28 EU countries. Twelve EU countries, including Cyprus, had already achieved their 2020 emission targets. EEWRC Associate Professor in Hydrology and Water Management Dr. Adriana Bruggeman, notes that emission targets will become more stringent and that Cyprus will also need to start implementing ammonia reduction measures in the agricultural sector.
The results suggest that compliance with the directive can generate significant health and economic benefits, both for the countries implementing such measures and for the wider region. The economic benefit from avoided premature deaths over Europe amounts to 14,837 Million Euro per year, while the estimated annual costs of ammonia emission control measures to achieve the emission reduction commitments range from 80 Million Euro (low nitrogen feed) to 3,738 Million Euro (low-emission animal housing).
Figure 1. Costs and benefits of meeting 2020 NECD ammonia emission reduction commitments
It is also important that both the costs and benefits of reducing ammonia emissions in the agricultural sector will be passed on to the consumers. This requires the adjustment of EU policies, as costs and benefits are not directly discountable. Farmers cannot solve this problem alone. Often, environmental degradation represents hidden expenditures, which should be made more transparent, associated with incentives for the sustainable production of food, says Prof. Lelieveld.
In light of the identified societal benefits, the report stresses the important role of investment support in ammonia emission abatement measures under the European Common Agricultural Policy.