Irish agricultural production is recognised by international independent analysis as having one of the lowest carbon-footprints internationally. The European Commission’s JRC Report of 2010 “Evaluation of the livestock sector's contribution to the EU greenhouse gas emissions (GGELS)” recognised that Ireland (with Austria) had the lowest cow milk emissions as well as the lowest emissions per kilo of pork. The FAO has also recognised the efficiency of our temperate grassland based production systems.
Production efficiency improvements are a core part of the efforts being undertaken by the agricultural sector. Significant progress in production efficiency has already been achieved through the use of fertiliser and manure, grassland management, improved breeding and better fertility. At farm level, my Department and its agencies are actively engaged with the farming sector through initiatives such as the Origin Green Farm Sustainability and Quality Assurance schemes, Knowledge Transfer Schemes, Beef Data and Genomics Programmes, the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) and the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS).
As an example of my continued focus on ensuring the lowering of the carbon footprint of the agriculture sector I have recently introduced a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot scheme that builds on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme. This new scheme is targeted at suckler farmers and is specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production.
Sequestration has also a key role to play in reducing the carbon footprint of the sector and my Department has made significant investment under the Forestry Programme. In 2018 €106 million has been made available by my Department to support afforestation and other forest initiatives with significant improvements in grant and premium rates under the agroforestry and forestry for fibre options.
Higher ambition on environmental and climate action are part of the new CAP, post 2020, and it is proposed that 40% of the overall CAP budget will contribute to climate action. This will require farmers to achieve a higher level of environmental ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures.
As we look towards defining measures and targets under the new CAP regime the recently published Teagasc report “An analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030” is key to informing the type of abatement measures we need to focus on to continue to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.
My Department will continue to actively engage in the whole of government approach on climate policy to examine the best means of encouraging sustainable intensification of food production, while optimising the sectors contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration including through afforestation and other forest sector activities.