While the agriculture sector needs to make a significant contribution to abating emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases associated with livestock based agriculture, it is also clear that we must acknowledge the role of removals within the landscape and the important role farmers can play in terms of enhancing these removals.
While accounting for these removals is more challenging at an individual farm level, it is certainly clear that we can account for removals at a national level. The Department has supported the development of a National Soil Carbon Observatory to be run by Teagasc and which will improve significantly our knowledge in this area measuring the movement of carbon in our farms. I also recently announced a scheme for farmers to conduct soil testing at farm level which will develop our knowledge at individual farm level.
Under the current EU Effort Sharing Regulation, Ireland was granted a flexibility to use land use removals as a contribution towards our national emissions reduction target out to 2030.
Carbon sequestration by forests is influenced by a range of factors including species, soil type, site conditions and management practices. When forests are young, the sequestration rate is low but as the trees mature their ability to sequester carbon dioxide increases. Earlier this year, Teagasc launched their new Forest Carbon Tool, a user-friendly way to calculate how much carbon can be removed in woodlands. For example, one hectare of oak has the potential to remove 2.31 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually per rotation over the first and subsequent rotations, whereas Sitka spruce has the potential to remove 8.32 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually per rotation over the first and subsequent rotations.
I remain in close contact with my cabinet colleague, Minister Eamon Ryan, to ensure that the emission reduction targets for agriculture under the Climate Amendment Bill are achievable. As the Deputy will be aware, this legislation is in the final stages of clearing both Houses of the Oireachtas.