Germany Sued to Curb Agriculture Ammonia Emissions

By Jabeen Bhatti

Germany is under increased pressure to revise its pollutant-heavy agriculture sector after a lawsuit by environmental nonprofit Deutsche Umwelthilfe.

The lawsuit in the Administrative Court of Cologne (Verwaltungsgericht), filed last year but announced Jan. 3, demands Germany create a tenable plan of action to reduce ammonia emissions, largely attributed to the country’s farm animals.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe claims the ammonia emission levels have continuously exceeded thresholds set by a 2001 directive by the European Parliament and the European Council (NEC Directive) (2001/81/EC).

Ammonia emissions in Germany were not to exceed 550 kilotons per year beginning in 2010, according to the directive. But annual levels in Germany have been between 17 percent and 22 percent over the limit for each of the past six years, the lawsuit claims.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to provide for a national program which contains the necessary measures by which the declared ammonia threshold can be securely met,” Deutsche Umwelthilfe attorney Remo Klinger told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 6. “These measures will have to be met in particular by the industrial agricultural sector.”

The lawsuit could take many months to go to trial, the Administrative Court of Cologne confirmed Jan. 6.

Showdown Over Agriculture

In Germany, 95 percent of ammonia emissions stem from industrial agriculture, a byproduct of large-scale animal husbandry. Agriculture-related ammonia stems largely from manure decomposition and animal urine.

Germany’s agricultural sector faced scrutiny last year for its failures to comply with European Union pollutant standards. The European Commission filed suit Oct. 27 against Germany for failing to reduce nitrate levels in groundwater due to its continued use of synthetic fertilizers.

While the German Environment Ministry acknowledges issues in the agriculture sector, it contests the necessity for new programs, given discussions with the EU about upcoming reforms.

“Whether it’s necessary to create a new national program in light of transgressions is legally disputable,” a ministry spokesman told Bloomberg BNA in a written statement Jan. 6. “The federal government has made clear that by amending the Fertilizer Ordinance [expected this year] and, if necessary, by providing more technical specifications for air purification from livestock dwelling exhaust, ammonia emissions can be further reduced.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jabeen Bhatti in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The German Federal Environment Agency report is available, in German, at

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