The Government’s policy position for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. There are three strands to my Department’s approach to carbon neutrality:
1. reducing agricultural emissions;
2. increasing carbon sequestration; and
3. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.
The All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption sets a series of step-up measures and underpinning actions and proposed targets for all sectors including the agriculture, forestry and land use sector. One of these is to achieve 26.8 Mt CO2eq abatement through LULUCF actions, including the planting of 8,000 ha of forestry per annum. My Department is fully committed to mobilising the LULUCF credits as outlined in the ‘All of Government action plan for climate change’. To achieve these challenging targets, it will require immediate action through early adoption and high levels of take-up of the identified actions across our 139,000 plus family farms.
These credits provide a means to assist the agricultural sector contributing to Irelands ambition on climate action.
Forestry provides resources for the bioenergy supply chain, the wider bio-economy and timber products that can act as a less carbon-intensive substitute of other materials in construction and other related sectors as well as through the displacement of fossil fuels. Ireland has a 16% target for renewable energy by 2020 and the production of indigenous biomass has a crucial role to play in helping us meet this renewable energy target. My Department has a key role to play in the supply of biomass materials for the renewable energy sector and continues to make considerable investment to support indigenous biomass supply through the afforestation programme.
The mid-term review of the Forestry Programme has seen substantial increases in the grants and premiums paid for growing trees suitable for fibre and biomass. The duration of the premium has also increased from 10 to 15 years. It is hoped that these measures will stimulate increased planting of crops such as eucalyptus and poplar which together with forest thinnings will provide increased material for energy.
My Department is considering all opportunities for further developments in the area of biomass in the context of the next Forestry Programme and the next CAP Strategic programme.