The National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (2014) and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 refer to a long term vision for the agriculture, forestry and land use sectors based on: “an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sector, including forestry, that does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production”.
With what is internationally recognised as one of the most carbon efficient systems of food production in the EU, there are inherent challenges affecting climate emission reductions in the sector.
While agriculture is contributing to emissions, it is also part of the solution. There are three strands to my Department’s approach to this:
- Abatement: reducing emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide from the agriculture sector in so far as it is possible;
- Sequestration: increasing carbon sequestration through forests and land use;
- Displacement and substitution: displacing fossil fuel and energy intensive materials with renewable energy sources.
My Department and agencies are actively engaged with the farming sector on a large range of measures and actions focused on the environment and climate, which support the continued transition towards a low carbon economy and society.
Measures such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) are aimed at lowering the intensity of GHG emissions by improving the quality and efficiency of the national beef herd. Our Agri-Environment Scheme, GLAS supports farmers to implement actions such as the use of Low Emission manure application technology whilst our Capital Support Scheme, the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) also supports investment in technology and infrastructure to make agriculture more carbon efficient. Other initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes also contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.
In terms of sequestration our most significant intervention is the national afforestation programme. Afforestation and forests also play a key role in replacing energy intensive materials and providing sustainable renewable biomass to the energy sector. My Department are therefore, investing heavily in the Afforestation Scheme to encourage landowners to establish forests on their land. The Government has recently approved significant improvements in grant and premium rates under the agro forestry and forestry for fibre options.
Lastly, the third strand to our climate policy approach focuses on energy efficiency, energy provision from biomass and other agricultural products and on the use of wood products to substitute for materials associated with high levels of emissions such as steel, concrete and fossil fuels. The agriculture and forest sector is a significant contributor of low-carbon, bio-based materials at present and is primed to play a central role in the expansion of the bio economy. My Department is actively supporting this through funding research and development and value the efforts of other Departments and Bodies in seeking green, sustainable solutions to meeting our resource needs.
My Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. 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 measures we need to focus on into the future to continue to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.