Tuesday 14 February 2023

Fertiliser emissions could drop by 80%

Fertiliser emissions could drop by 80%

The carbon emissions from fertilisers could be cut by 80% by 2050.

That’s according to research conducted by the University of Cambridge, revealing that fertilisers account for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions during their entire lifecycle.

Two-thirds of the emissions occur after the fertiliser has been spread onto fields, the researchers found – with manure and synthetic fertilisers producing more carbon emissions each year than aviation and shipping combined: 2.6 gigatonnes.

However, they raise solutions that if implemented at scale would reduce these emissions by 80% - leading to one-fifth of current levels by the half-century.

Dr André Cabrera Serrenho, co-author of the study, said: “We’re incredibly inefficient in our use of fertilisers. We’re using far more than we need, which is economically inefficient and that’s down to farming practices. If we used fertiliser more efficiently, we would need substantially less fertiliser, which would reduce emissions without affecting crop productivity.”

Aside from less use, decarbonising heat and hydrogen production would slash a large portion of emissions; as most fertilisers are currently made from ammonia synthesis.

In addition to this, fertilisers with the highest level of emissions, such as urea, would see a 40% drop in carbon if switched with ammonium nitrate.

Dr Serrenho continued: “Our work gives us a good idea of what’s technically possible, what’s big and where interventions would be meaningful – it’s important that we aim interventions at what matters the most, in order to make fast and meaningful progress in reducing emissions.”

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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