cow in stable

EU 2040 Climate targets: EU Commissioners avoid the Cow in the Room

While the EU is now set to slash 90% of its emissions by 2040, the European Commission is avoiding the task of tackling emissions from animal agriculture. It cannot continue to do so if the EU is to reach its climate targets. 


BRUSSELS, 6th February 2024 – Today the College of Commissioners has published a communication announcing its agreement for an EU emission reduction target of 90% for 2040. The document lays out a number of policies through which this target could be achieved but omits any mention of regulating the agricultural and animal farming sector.

FOUR PAWS strongly condemns the business-as-usual approach in maintaining a regulatory exceptionalism that only benefits the largest companies in the sector. Coming off the back of the farmer´s protests, it has become clear that the sector needs a systemic change to become socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.  

As the impact assessment conducted by the Commission states, around 50% of non-CO2 GHG emissions come from agriculture. Animal farming alone is responsible for 55% of the EU’s methane emissions. This is echoed by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC), for whom climate neutrality cannot be achieved without shifting away from emission-intensive agricultural practices such as livestock pollution

However, this reality has been disregarded by the Commission. The lack of a sectorial target and the focus on technical fixes alone do not provide a clear, ambitious path for the transformation of the current animal farming sector. These fixes are yet another attempt to make animals fit in a broken system, with unclear effects on their welfare, the environment and public health. Even if all available technical solutions were applied, they are still not enough to meet the emissions reductions needed.  

Rather than pursuing these single-oriented quick solutions that do not tackle environmental pollution, the EU must seriously consider the challenging task of changing our food systems, starting with a just and humane reduction in the number of farm animals. This is the quickest way to reduce the animal farming sector’s carbon footprint.  

Miguel Zhan Dai, Climate Policy Officer at FOUR PAWS said “The future role of EU farming in climate protection cannot be based on a highly speculative carbon market or techno fixes. Change must come from a shift of public funding towards helping small-scale and family farms in their agroecological transition and recognising that the EU overproduces and overconsumes animal products. 

While we welcome the European Commission’s step in further recognising the critical role that dietary shifts will play in the EU’s emission reduction, this is only one side of the food system. A systemic shift that moves away from intensive animal agriculture is simply inevitable if the European Union is to cut 90% of its emissions. The missing piece is political willingness for a just and fair transition that provides a sustainable future for all”. 


Morgane Speeckaert

Morgane Speeckaert

EU Communications Coordinator

+39 331 365 4110

Rue Ducale 29, 1000 Brussels

FOUR PAWS - Animal Welfare ASBL

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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