Despite its high population density, Germany is among the top four agricultural producers in the European Union – producing 50 billion EUR worth of agricultural products each year. As the EU’s largest milk producer, Germany dedicates about 50% of its agricultural land use to grazing and feeding the country’s 200 million farm animals (producing milk, meat, and eggs). Meanwhile, the other 50% is dedicated to bread cereals (predominantly wheat), potatoes, sugar beets, oilseeds, fruit and vegetables, and the production of bioenergy and bio-resources.
Overall, Germany is a net importer as the world’s third largest importer of agricultural products – while also the world’s third largest export of agricultural products. Most German farms are still family-run, and 10 percent are certified organic. According to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, a majority (62%) of agricultural holdings are located in the territories of Bayern, Niedersachsen, and Baden-Württemberg in western Germany. In 2021, the agricultural industry contributed to approximately 0.9% of Germany’s GDP – relatively minor in comparison to its larger inputs of services and production industries (69.8% and 23.5%, respectively).
Germany’s agricultural sector has contributed 0.89% of the global agricultural emissions from 2015 to 2021, accounting for 0.36B tonnes of CO2 e100. Sub-sectors responsible for emissions in descending order of impact are enteric fermentation, manure management, synthetic fertilizer application, other agricultural soil emissions, and cropland fires. Enteric fermentation (methane emissions from digestive systems of cattle and other livestock) has the largest impact with a share of 54.83% of the CO2 emissions, followed by the second highest share of 22.87% for manure management (methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock manure decomposition).
Looking at data from 2015 to 2021, the highest yearly agricultural emissions of 54M tons of CO2 and 52.8M tons of CO2 were recorded in 2015 and 2016 respectively – with the biggest year-over-year drop recorded from 2017 to 2018. Emission trends decreased steadily from 2015 to 2020, with a slight uptick observable from 2020 to 2021 – with the lowest emissions recorded in 2021. This overall decrease is mainly due to categorical reductions in enteric fermentation and manure management; it is worth noting, however, that 2021 marked the first-time increase in synthetic fertilizer application since 2015.
A combination of federal policy and strong consumer demand is pushing Germany toward a future of lower agricultural emissions and a transition to organic agricultural practices. On the market side, Germany remains the largest market for organic food in Europe with a turnover of 14.99 billion euros in the year 2020; however, high levels of price sensitivity in Germany counterbalance progress as organic products often cost much more than non-organic products.
On the policy side, the Federal Government’s 2030 Climate Action Programme dedicates 480M EUR of an overall 8B EUR fund to concrete actions in the agricultural and forestry sectors. The top four levers include:
- Lowering nitrogen surpluses and emissions, including the reduction of ammonia emissions, and targeted decrease of nitrous oxide emissions, improving nitrogen use efficiency;
- Increasing the fermentation of farm manure and agricultural residues;
- Expansion of organic farming (to represent 30 percent of agricultural land by 2030);
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in animal husbandry
Today, many German farmers already contribute to the renewable energy transition in a variety of ways, including providing land and roofs for wind turbines or solar collection systems – and producing biomass (accounting for 8.6% of primary energy consumption in 2019), which are turned into heat, electricity, and fuels by biogas plants. Many opportunities to decrease agricultural emissions lie on the horizon with the advent of organic permaculture and digital technologies that boost the precision and sustainability of farming and animal husbandry practices (as well as animal welfare!) – such as decreasing the use of easily-soluble mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Alex Savas
Learn More References: