Currently, 33% of Ireland's Greenhouse Gas emissions are produced as a result of agricultural activities. In order to reduce emissions there must be a change in farming methods; opportunities are also present in the areas of forestry, bioenergy and land-use practices.
While reducing emissions, policy in this area must also aim to:
- Maintain the "green" brand image of Irish food exports abroad ("Origin Green" etc.).
- Maintain good prices for producers.
- Improve production methods to meet the increasingly environmentally-conscious expectations of consumers.
One alternative strategic option would be the creation, among the member states, of a regulatory regime for agricultural emissions along the lines of the emissions trading scheme (which is for industrial carbon emissions). This would be one way of maintaining a large national herd while meeting our climate obligations.
Reducing Emissions from Farming
Carbon abatement in farming will be delivered by integrating improved technologies and new, low-carbon methods into farming practices.
Examples of such practices include: improving the use-efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser, improving livestock management, improving slurry management, and modifying animal health and finishing regimes.1
These measures will be supported by the next phase of CAP (2021-2027), which will allocate 40% of its funding to environmental initiatives; and by enhanced knowledge-transfer programmes delivered by Teagasc advisory service.
Forestry and Land-use
More detailed discussion of such practices can be found in An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030 (Teagasc, June 2018).
Opportunities are also possible in the area of land usage through:
- Increasing afforestation rates (which will increase carbon sequestration) and harnessing the value of the side-streams between agriculture and forestry.
- Enhancing the position of forestry as an element in a diversified, low-carbon bioeconomy.
- Managing peatlands effectively in accordance with the National Peatland Strategy.
Cost-effective Energy Substitutes
The potential of bioenergy, through both biomass and biogas, will be developed.
The supply of biomass for renewable heating and CHP (Combined Heat and Power) will be supported and increased. The short-term supply gap in indigenous biogas will be addressed.
Targets will be set for biogas and biomethane development in Ireland, particularly as regards the potential of anaerobic digestion from grass silage and slurry.
Update as of 2 September 2019
The Government has firmed up its commitment to increase afforestation according to media reports (Irish Times, 31 August 2019) with proposals to plant 22 million trees a year for the next twenty years or 8,000 hectares of new forestry every year. It remains to be seen how this policy will be documented and implemented.
Click here to view the Climate Action Plan 2019.
For more information contact Alan Roberts, Alison Fanagan, Jason Milne, John Dallas, Ross Moore or any member of the Environmental & Planning or Energy & Natural Resources teams.