Institute for Environmental Decisions IED. ETH Zürich

Development of agricultural nitrogen emission until 2020

Agriculture is the main emitter of three reactive nitrogen (N) compounds: ammonia, nitrate and nitrous oxide. Therefore, the agricultural sector is especially in charge for contributing to the mitigation of environmentally harmful N emissions. This is even accentuated by the fact that considerable gaps can be observed between the long term goals stated by law and the current situation. In this article, we investigate which interim emission targets could be aimed for in the year 2020. To this end, we implemented selected mitigation practices into an already existing agricultural allocation model. We applied the model in order to assess the mitigation potential of an agricultural nitrogen reduction and the corresponding sector related abatement cost. Model runs show that only a 10 % reduction of ammonia, nitrate and the further N compounds can be expected until 2020, given the selected measures within the «Resources program» of the current agricultural policy regime. Without any additional mitigation measures, further emission reductions seem only to be attainable via an extensification or via a decline in agricultural production. But this would go along with undesired implications on sectoral income. The interim emission targets to be set for 2020 are therefore highly depending on the realizable potential of mitigation practices that have not been taken into account so far. However, the achievement of the stated long-term goals will remain a challenge for research, policy and praxis.

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