Climate: France urged to reduce its herd of cows, responsible for 11% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions

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The Court of Auditors estimated in a report published on Monday May 22 that France should reduce its herd of cows to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

France, the first European producer of beef and second dairy farm after Germany, should “define and publish a strategy to reduce” the number of its cows, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, estimates the Court of Justice. this Monday 22 May

This report is released on the day Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne unveils a government action plan that assesses greenhouse gas reductions by major sector of the economy and quantifies the effort for agriculture with priority reduction of the impact of animal husbandry and nitrogen fertilizers.

17 million cattle

France has about 17 million head of livestock. However, livestock farming accounts for 11.8% of the country’s emissions. “The balance of cattle breeding for the climate is unfavourable”, writes the Court of Auditors in a report on public support for farmers.

The Court states that the sequestration of carbon by the grasslands where the animals graze is “far from offsetting the emissions” of farming. The livestock balance is burdened mainly by methane emissions: the production of this gas with a high heating power – deriving from the digestion of ruminants and their droppings – represents 45% of French agricultural emissions.

“Respecting France’s commitments in terms of reducing methane emissions (…) necessarily requires a significant reduction in livestock”, decides the institution which asks the Ministry of Agriculture to “define and make public” its strategy . The Court notes that the ministry communicated to it “its hypotheses on the evolution of the cattle herd” which could drop to around 15 million head in 2035 and 13.5 million in 2050.

“Sustained” decrease.

The decline in the herd has begun (-10% in six years). But “this reduction remains suffered and is not subject to real management by the State, to the detriment of the operators”, observes the Court.

According to the institution, the decline in livestock would not undermine France’s “sovereignty” with regard to red meat provided consumers follow the recommendations of the health authorities not to eat more than 500 grams per week (threshold currently exceeded by 28% of adults).

At the same time, he recommends that the ministry “better support farmers in difficulty” so that they can “reorient themselves towards other production systems or change professional orientation”.

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