SD.20.007 – Tracking methane and ammonia emissions across scales using observational data

Route: Sustainable development goals for inclusive global development

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

Mitigating climate change and addressing excess deposition of nitrogen are two main societal challenges in the Netherlands. To limit climate change, the emissions of all greenhouse gases, including methane, have to be reduced significantly following the Paris agreement. Emissions from ammonia are the main cause of nitrogen deposition with adverse effects on biodiversity. Accurate quantification of emissions is vital for understanding processes, sources, and informed policy actions.
Emissions inventories are currently not based on direct measurements, but derived ‘bottom-up’ from activity data and emission factors. To assess the accuracy of the emissions and trends and to increase transparency of reported emissions, independent assessment of emissions through observations is essential. Moreover, to understand the contributions of stakeholders and find solutions to reduce emissions, budgets of compounds are needed. While keeping completeness, we will focus on agriculture, as it is the key source of both methane and ammonia in the Netherlands. By combining atmospheric observations from methane and ammonia at various scales across the Netherlands with inverse modelling techniques, local emissions from different types of farms will be quantified as well as national emissions, and compared with bottom-up estimates. With the novel approach of simultaneously studying methane and ammonia, with observations and models, the quantification of the local and national emissions of both compounds will be improved, facilitating an integrated approach addressing both challenges. This is imperative for verification and transparency of reported emissions, stakeholder support, progress towards emission reduction objectives, and informed mitigation policies.
The Ruisdael observatory, with its state-of-the-art atmospheric measurements, atmospheric models, and data assimilation techniques will be employed. This will be augmented with campaigns with mobile instruments, small sensors and satellite data, to improve understanding of emissions. The new methods are generally applicable and useful for other countries and could serve as a framework for other emissions.


agriculture, ammonia, climate change, emission quantification, methane, pollution

Other organisations

Leiden University (LEI), Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM), Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG), TNO, Wageningen Universities and Research (WUR)


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. Dr. Thomas Roeckmann