As a sector most impacted by climate change we recognise the importance of calls for more ambitious climate action including the commitment to achieve climate neutrality. The EU’s long-term strategy ‘A Clean Planet for All’ acknowledges that agricultural production will always result in non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., methane and nitrous oxide) but these gases can be reduced by 2050 thanks to efficient and sustainable production methods. The strategy suggests that any residual emissions need to be balanced by negative emissions opportunities such as afforestation and increased use of biomass in energy systems and displacement of energy intensive materials and in combination with carbon capture and storage can lead to increased negative emissions. Innovation will play an increasingly important role.
Furthermore, the IPCC’s special report on 1.5 degrees distinguished the importance of reaching and sustaining net zero global anthropogenic CO2 emissions separately from declining net non-CO2 radiative gases such as methane/nitrous oxide.
Currently, the long-term ambition for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. While carbon neutrality has yet to be defined the aim is to balance residual agricultural emissions by increasing carbon-sequestration and increasing fossil fuel and energy intensive materials displacement. The sector is pursuing a pathway towards carbon neutrality, guided by the principle of sustainable intensification, through measures such as:
- Efficient multi trait animal breeding strategies;
- Efficient use and recycling of nutrients which optimise nitrogen use efficiency and reduce losses of reactive nitrogen to the environment;
- Feeding strategies;
- Support of improvements to animal health and welfare; and
- Support of ICT in agriculture to aid delivery of sustainable intensification.
Lastly, my Department in tandem with EPA have commissioned a research project by NUIG to quantify/set out definitions and pathways to improve understanding of approaches to C neutrality consistent with temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.