Thursday, 13 July 2023
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Climate Action Plan
598. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which measures to comply with carbon reduction targets are in consort with those applicable in other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35542/23]
As provided for in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act, the Government agreed sectoral emission ceilings for all sectors including agriculture which was set at 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The measures being deployed to enable the sector to comply with this target are specific to our national context in which pasture-based farm enterprises dominate compared to housed systems which are more common in other European countries.
This is an extremely challenging target for the sector. However, the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC), which I launched in recent days, provides farmers, industry and policy makers with a range of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also providing significant co-benefits for the environment.
Key to achieving this target is the need to develop more efficient and sustainable farming practices that use less inputs and maximise the use of new technologies and new practices. In the Agriculture sector Ireland’s areas of interest which mirror the focus of the MACC are around three main pillars: Mitigation, Carbon Sequestration and Sustainable Energy.
In terms of mitigation, this means the reductions of absolute emissions through pasture-based methane reduced feed additives, multispecies swards and restoration of cultivated peaty soils. The focus over the next decade will be on a significant cut in chemical nitrogen use, by making better use of organic manures, and transitioning to clover and multispecies swards. The beef sector will need to transition to a system that reduces the average finishing age from the current 26.75-month average to 24 months. This will reduce absolute methane emissions on farm.
While existing measures and technologies will bring agriculture very close to the reduction target, new technologies or some diversification will be needed. However, the sector will be broadly able to maintain agricultural output in our beef and dairy sectors, as farmers make the changes, outlined above, on their individual farms.
From a Carbon sequestration perspective, this will focus onsoil and forestry. The Climate Action Plan commits us to reducing the management intensity of up to 80,000ha of organic soil, better management of mineral grasslands, increasing cover crops and straw incorporation as carbon storing measures and increasing our afforestation rates to enhance our carbon sinks.
Finally, sustainable energy has a key role to play through supply of biomass and agriculture feedstock and deployment of renewables. The sector provides a positive and important contribution toward the decarbonisation of the energy system through, applying the energy efficiency principle first and reducing energy use at farm level, deploying renewable energy technology at farm level for self- consumption but also a contribution to renewable energy generation through export of electricity to the grid and providing forest biomass and agriculture feedstocks to the generation of renewable energy such as biomass for heat, agriculture feedstocks for production of biogas and biomethane from Anaerobic Digestion.