Skip to main content

Bovine Emissions

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions came from cows in the last period for which figures are available; and what plans he has to reduce such emissions. (106300)

Agriculture as a whole contributes 7 per cent. of all UK greenhouse gas emissions and 14 per cent. globally. The sector accounts for 36 per cent. of methane and 67 per cent. of nitrous oxide emissions in the UK, but only 1 per cent. of carbon dioxide. About 80 per cent. of this methane comes from enteric fermentation in the digestive system of animals (sheep, pigs and bovines), and 20 per cent. from animal waste. Methane emissions from agriculture have declined by 12 per cent. since 1990.

Recent research suggests that substantial methane reductions could be achieved by changes to feed regimes. Improving the longevity of dairy cows will also result in decreased methane production as a result of a reduction in the total number of animals needed to produce the same quantity of milk.

Defra is exploring the role of anaerobic digestion in reducing methane emissions in agriculture, both domestically and internationally. For example, we are taking a leading role in the Methane to Markets Partnership, an international initiative that advances cost-effective, near-term methane recovery and its use as a clean energy source.