Members of the European Agriculture Committee have asked to scrap the European Commission's plans to set new binding reduction targets for methane and proposed a more flexible regime for ammonia emissions.

They highlighted farmers' efforts in reducing emissions and insisted that there are other options within the EU's farm policy to increase air quality.

MEPs said that for years the EU has laws to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and they are effective,

They added that the new proposals from the European Commission would increase the regulatory burden by trying to regulate the same thing twice. Moreover, it could endanger the pasturing of animals.

"Farmers are in the position to make a valuable contribution in the fight against climate change, as long as they have the flexibility to do so. The Agriculture committee has sent a clear signal to the Commission on it stance," said rapporteur MEP Jan Huitema.

No new methane ceilings

MEPs stress that the farming community contributes to public goods that go beyond the production of food and its role in emissions reducing efforts should be acknowledged but insist that proposed new reduction targets for methane should be deleted from the draft legislation.

"Emission reduction commitments on methane are already regulated by the EU act on national greenhouse gas emission reduction," argued Mr Huitema.

He warned that setting new targets would lead to "over-legislation" and "unjustified burden for animal keepers."

The committee also points out that additional measures to contribute to air quality are available in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the 2014-2020 and should be used.

Less stringent rules for ammonia

The Agriculture committee also wants to scrap the 2030 reduction targets for ammonia from the draft law, which MEPs believe are too strict.

Ammonia emissions in the EU have been reduced by almost 30% since 1990, they say and warn that setting too strict new targets could compromise animal welfare standards as e.g. free stables and pasturing involve more emissions than closed ones.

MEPs also call on the Commission to come up with a proposal for revised ammonia reduction targets by the end of 2016, which would ensure a level playing field and guarantee further convergence of reduction levels within the Union.

Measures to reduce atmospheric ammonia should be cost-effective, based on scientifically obtained data and scientific conclusions while taking into account scientific progress and previous measures already implemented by Member States and farmers, members of the Agriculture committee say.

Next steps

The draft legislation, including the amendments proposed by the Agriculture committee, will be scrutinised by the Environment committee, which has the lead on the file, during its meeting on July 15-16.