The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 commits Ireland to a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, and a reduction of 51% by 2030.
In order to deliver upon this ambition, the Government recently published the Climate Action Plan 2021. The Plan sets out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy based on their respective starting points, and the relative difficulty, cost, speed, and benefits, of reducing emissions. The ranges will be converted to legally binding specific sectoral ceilings following the adoption of economy-wide carbon budgets by Government and the Oireachtas in early 2022. The Plan also sets out the actions needed to deliver on our climate targets, across all economic sectors, including the agriculture sector.
In the agriculture sector, we must focus on a number of key areas. We must support and help our farmers to continue to roll out improvements in our farming practices. This is appropriate from both a consumer point of view, and from a financial perspective, as higher efficiencies often mean less costs. It is important Ireland maintains our reputation for producing high quality and sustainably produced food.
We also need to create a policy framework to enable farmers to make choices to avail of new business diversification opportunities, in areas such as forestry, the bioeconomy and organic farming.
In addition, we need to focus on gathering an evidence base to support policy design in the area of land use. Ireland is currently a net emitter of emissions from our lands. We need to reverse that trend and reward farmers for doing so. As well as developing the next Climate Action Plan, my Department together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are evaluating the potential climate contributions from land-use improvements, to develop a land-use strategy.
With the correct policy choices in the agri-food sector, we can reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity, producing clean energy and improving water and air quality, while remaining profitable and competitive.