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Current Affairs

Netherlands proposes to cut livestock numbers

Date: 15 September 2021 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

The Netherlands is planning to cut livestock numbers by 30 per cent by asking farmers to sell their lands and emission rights to the state.

 

Background

The proposal is one of the most radical ones in Europe to tackle emission of Greenhouse gases such as methane.

 

Details

The proposal has been floated by the finance and agriculture ministry in the Netherlands, which aims to reduce numbers by one third of the existing population.

 

Livestock in Netherlands

It is the largest meat exporters of Europe. The livestock numbers include 100 million cattle, chickens and pigs.

 

The proposal

  • The proposal was brought in following concerns regarding effects of livestock population on human health and also the environment.

  • The demand for reassessment strengthened after the Q fever epidemic which affected the most densely populated livestock areas in the country in 2007-10.

 

Reasons for the plan

  • Excess of nitrogen emissions has caused acute climate crisis in the country. The manure and urine mixture releases ammonia, which is a nitrogen compound.

  • The ammonia from farms can get transported to water bodies as part of water run-offs. This excessive nitrogen will damage sensitive natural habitats. Oxygen can also get depleted due to algal bloom.

  • Livestock production has also caused nitrate pollution of groundwater. This leads to eutrophication due to which nitrogen concentrations exceeded the standard. 

 

Contributors

 Cattle contribute about 63% of the ammonia emissions. It is followed by pigs with 21%, and poultry with 11%. 

 

Government actions

The government is implementing other stringent measures to tackle the crisis, such as reducing the daytime speed limit to 100 kmph on motorways. It has stopped gas-emitting construction projects.

 

Role in climate change

Livestock has an 18% stake in the global emission of greenhouse gases.  The global warming potential of Nitrous Oxide is 310 times that of CO2.

 

Effects

  • Environmental groups have welcomed the plan. It has been hailed as a positive step to control nitrogen emissions in the country.

  • Farming groups have been opposing the move by blocking roads and protesting in front of government offices. The move has been criticized as a means to decimate the agricultural sector.