Nitrogen: 'Too much of a good thing'

14-04-2011 | Publication

Nitrogen pollution costs the European Union between €70 billion and €320 billion per year. This cost is more than double the value that nitrogen fertilizers are estimated to add to European farm income.

Integrated approach needed

Reducing nitrogen emissions is a central environmental challenge for the twenty-first century. Policies should address farming, meat consumption, use of human sewage and fossil-fuel burning. The Gothenburg Protocol, a policy that aims to reduce energy consumption and fossil-fuel burning, is an opportunity to further reduce emissions. Together with other policies, for example on manure application and livestock number reduction, these have led to a modest drop in European nitrogen pollution. However, existing policies are fragmented. A global inter-convention nitrogen protocol is needed.