The long term vision for the agricultural sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Our policy approach is based on three principles:
- Reducing agricultural emissions
- Increasing carbon sequestration; and
- Displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.
My Department and its agencies are actively engaged with the farming sector on a large range of measures and actions focused on the environment and climate, which support the continued transition towards a low carbon economy and society.
- The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) aimed at lowering the intensity of GHG emissions by improving the quality and efficiency of the national beef herd and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP);
- The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme;
- The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS); and
- Initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes;
all of which contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.
In terms of sequestration our most significant intervention is the national afforestation programme. My Department invests heavily in the Afforestation Scheme to encourage landowners to establish forests on their land. The Government has recently approved significant improvements in grant and premium rates under the agroforestry and forestry for fibre options.
The third strand to our climate policy approach focuses on energy efficiency, energy provision from biomass and other agricultural products and on the use of wood products to substitute for materials associated with high levels of emissions such as steel, concrete and fossil fuels. I have recently made available €10 million under TAMS for energy measures.
My Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland’s climate change and energy targets in the years ahead.