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09 Aug 2022

McConalogue confirms agriculture sector must cut emissions by 25% in 8 years

Agriculture was responsible for 37.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2021, according to the EPA.

McConalogue confirms agriculture sector must cut emissions by 25% in 8 years

The Irish agriculture sector will be required to cut emissions by 25% in the next eight years. 

That's according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, who today (Friday July 29) confirmed ceilings agreed by the government for each sector of the economy. 

The minister said, "Today the Government has agreed a pathway to a 51% cut in economy wide emissions by 2030.  The emissions ceiling for agriculture has been set at a level requiring a 25% reduction by 2030. This falls within the target range assigned to the sector under the Climate Action Plan 2021.

"I am pleased to have reached this conclusion as a way of offering certainty to our farm families and their businesses over the next decade." 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture was responsible for 37.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2021, the largest total emissions from any sector including transport (17.7%). 

It marks a 3% increase in emissions compared to 2020, with agriculture emissions up 19.3% in the last ten years despite Ireland signing the Paris Agreement (a legally binding international treaty on climate change) in 2016. 

Reasons for the increase, according to the EPA, include a 5.2% rise in nitrogen fertilizer use and 49.5% rise in liming, as well as higher numbers of dairy cows (up 2.8%) and ramped up milk production (up 5.5%). 

Minister McConalogue continued: "The Programme for Government and the Climate Act committed us to strong climate action. The world is facing a climate crisis, so such action is absolutely essential. It also recognises the special economic and social role of agriculture, and the importance of sustainable food production. 

"I am satisfied that the agreement we have arrived at today strikes an appropriate balance in this regard.”

He added: "This target reflects a very challenging but achievable ambition for the sector. The protection and enhancement of our sustainable food production system, while ensuring that agriculture plays its part in climate change mitigation, has been a priority for this Government.

"I am confident that farmers will embrace this challenge and, as Minister, I will stand full square behind our farmers on this journey to support them at every step.” 

According to Minister Pippa Hackett, farmers will be supported through a number of initiatives promoting environmentally friendlier farming. 

She said, "We will be supporting farmers through initiatives such as a new forestry programme and improved incentives to engage in Organic farming and invest in renewable energy technology. 

"The Government will also be assisting in the development of biomethane from Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which will provide opportunity for farmers who wish to consider additional income sources while also contributing significantly to decarbonising the energy system. I am confident that we can meet our climate action targets by working together in a solutions focused way.” 

Minister Martin Heydon noted the need for research to form part of the solution. 

He said, "Solutions are in development, we are seeing great progress in relation to feed additives, particularly the 3NOP additive which is under research at Teagasc. This additive was designed for continual feeding in indoor systems, the challenge now is to develop options for our pasture-based animals. 

"We will continue to invest heavily in research to support our farmers to produce food even more efficiently into the future as well as delivering for the environment and farm incomes." 

According to Minister McConalogue, guidance on what the decision means must be made clear to farmers. 

He said, "My priority now is to work with stakeholder on supporting and delivering these targets.  Our Ag-Climatise roadmap updated as soon as possible, which will incorporate new recommendations from the Food Vision Dairy and Beed committees. The sector needs a clear roadmap going forward and my ambition is to progress this process this autumn.” 

The Minister added: "I have already configured our supports, such as the CAP strategic plan and support in areas such as for Low Emissions equipment and for on-farm energy production towards achieving these targets. This will continue and farmers will be supported in their ambition.” 

Regarding the decision to defer the inclusion of LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) in the sectoral emissions ceiling process for 18 months to coincide with the completion of a Land Use Review, the Minister stated: "This decision has not been taken lightly, but reflects the complexity and uncertainty associated with the quantification of emissions arising from this biological system. 

"The EPA, in its recent 2022 National Inventory submission, included a refinement with respect to the emissions coming from the land. 

"I have invested heavily through the National Soil Carbon Observatory and the Soil Sampling scheme in better knowledge of what is happening across our soils. This decision is in line with the provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 in order to better understand what is happening with regard to our soils and our forest estate, especially as our land use emissions and sequestration changes over time.” 

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