Nordic nitrogen and agriculture - Policy, measures and recommendations to reduce environmental impact

Increasing attention is now given, nationally and internationally, to the importance of understanding and managing other global cycles of elements in addition to carbon, including nitrogen. The aim of this study was to provide recommendations on: Strategies and policy instruments to achieve cost effective abatement of reactive nitrogen from agriculture in the Nordic countries. The need for further work to describe the effects of integrated, cost effective control strategies for reduction of loss of reactive nitrogen in the Nordic countries under varying climate and soil conditions.

Den här rapporten finns endast på engelska.

Summary

Increasing attention is now given, nationally and internationally, to the importance of understanding and managing other global cycles of elements in addition to carbon, including nitrogen. Work on planetary boundaries has identified overloading the nitrogen cycle as one of the most critical problems. A particular challenge is that reactive nitrogen (Nr) is involved in a cascade of different environmental effects, from local air pollution to eutrophication, acidification and climate change. These problems are often managed by different and not always coordinated policies and instruments. Recent studies and projects, such as the European Nitrogen Assessment, and newly initiated projects by the OECD, have looked at how more coherent and integrated policies could be better targeted and more cost-effective. The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) has established a Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen (TFRN) to look scientifically at the whole cycle of reactive nitrogen, as a background for policy development.

The use of fertiliser in agriculture, together with NOx from fossil fuel combustion, is a major anthropogenic source of reactive nitrogen, and requires special attention and analysis; around two thirds or more of Nr from human sources is related to agriculture, from fertiliser, fixation by crop plants or feed imports.

This report builds on earlier work by the Nordic Council of Ministers on these issues, in particular TemaNord2015:570 “Nordic agriculture air and climate”, and is also a follow-up of TemaNord2013:558 “Agriculture and environment in the Nordic countries”.

The report provides an overview of main sources, pathways and impacts of reactive nitrogen in the Nordic countries, including knowledge gaps. It reviews ongoing national and international policy efforts to control reactive nitrogen, and looks at trends and developments, including results of control policies, in flows of reactive nitrogen in the Nordic countries.

On this basis the report suggests further work to close knowledge gaps, and recommends possible control strategies and policy instruments for reactive nitrogen, in order to design and implement better integrated, more effective and more cost-effective policies.

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Last updated: 2021-05-05

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