I welcome the detailed review and assessment of the Agriculture and Land undertaken by the Climate Change Advisory Council in its 2019 Annual Review, published on 17 July. The Council notes that emissions from agriculture represent approximately one third of total emissions and that emissions increased by 2.9% in 2017 compared to 2016, and by 6.9% relative to 2014. The Council's Annual Review notes that this has largely been driven by the removal of quotas on dairy production, resulting in higher dairy cow numbers with an increase in milk production. To address the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, I published the Climate Action Plan on 17 June. The Plan sets out, for the first time, how Ireland can reach its 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan requires a significant step-up in ambition, with a target abatement range for each of the key sectors that contribute to Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions: Electricity, Enterprise, Built Environment, Transport, Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use, Waste and the Circular Economy, and the Public Sector.
The Plan identifies a 10% - 15% reduction in emissions from agriculture, relative to business as usual projections. It sets out a range of actions to: reduce emissions on farms; promote afforestation and diversification of land use; develop opportunities in the bio-economy and in the supply of substitutes for fossil fuels; promote better management of peatlands and soils; and develop clusters of best practice. Implementation of these actions will, collectively, help to further underpin the environmental credentials of the Irish agriculture sector and better position it to meet the evolving expectations of both domestic and international markets. This, in turn, will help prepare the sector for longer-term restructuring and adaptation that will be required to meet our carbon neutrality objectives.
In relation to the costs of purchasing carbon credits for compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets for the period 2013 to 2020 under the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision 406/2009/EC (ESD), my Department currently estimates the additional costs to be in the region of €6m to €13m, depending on the price and final quantity of allowances required. This is in addition to a total of €120 million that has already been spent as part of Ireland’s strategy to meet its targets under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012), arising from which approximately 5,500,000 carbon credits are currently held by the State, which may be used for ESD compliance. I expect that the costs associated with purchasing additional carbon credits will arise over the period to 2022 and that sufficient provision will be made in my Department's Vote for this purpose.