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Germany seeks 2030 nitrogen reduction target

German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, has called for a 2030 nitrogen reduction target.

Svenja Schulze
German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze

She made the call at the International Nitrogen Initiative Conference (INI2021) that ended on Thursday, June 3, 2021.

While highlighting synergies with climate action at the world’s largest nitrogen conference, she stressed that Germany needed an overall nitrogen target.

In the light of the fact that excess nitrogen emissions are one of the most pressing yet most neglected of global environmental problems, participants at the nitrogen conference called for the issue to be systematically factored into the fight against global problems such as climate change, air pollution and hunger.

The German Federal Environment Ministry disclosed that it is working on an overarching nitrogen reduction strategy and has developed suitable methods for cutting nitrogen across all sectors. This, it adds, puts Germany at the fore of nitrogen management and it can lead the way with an ambitious overall nitrogen target.

Schulze stated: “The world emits too much nitrogen, and this exacerbates problems like air pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. In Germany, we have already made significant reductions in nitrogen. Thanks to the revised Fertiliser Application Ordinance, the Climate Change Act and National Air Pollution Control Programme, nitrogen emissions are expected to fall by a further one third up to 2030.

“However, the remaining one million tonnes of nitrogen per year is still too much. That is why we need an overall nitrogen target for 2030. Additional efforts are needed at EU level too, with the Farm-to-Fork Strategy and the Air Quality Directive playing a central role.”

The urgent need for action worldwide is reflected in the Berlin Declaration, adopted on Thursday at the INI2021. The Declaration stresses that reducing nitrogen emissions is crucial to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and combatting climate change.

The key here is to integrate the goals of sustainable nitrogen management into all levels of environmental policy and to use ongoing international processes such as the UN Food System Summit in September 2021, the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (UNFCCC, COP26) in September 2021 and current preparations for a post-2020 biodiversity framework under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Nitrogen is vital for plants, animals and humans. However, too much reactive nitrogen (ammonia, nitrate, nitrogen oxides) can have extremely grave consequences, such as loss of biodiversity in eutrophied ecosystems, dead zones in over-fertilised seas, probable rise in the price of drinking water due to the high costs of nitrate removal, additional climate effects from nitrous oxide emissions and impacts on human health.

A number of sectors contribute to excess nitrogen, among them agriculture, transport, energy/industry and, not least, human consumption patterns. From May 31 to June 3, over 600 participants met online for the INI2021 to discuss the latest research findings and policy strategies in the field of nitrogen. It was jointly hosted by the German Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Environment Ministry.

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