The All-of Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown sets out a target of cumulative abatement of between 16.5 and 18.5 Mt CO2 eq over the period 2021 to 2030 for the agriculture sector. In addition, the sector will also deliver an additional 26.8 Mt CO2 eq through better land use management such as afforestation and improved management of peaty grasslands.
The plan identifies 34 actions for the sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society across abatement measures, carbon sequestration measures and displacement of fossil fuels and reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production of:
1. Reducing agricultural emissions;
2. Increasing carbon sequestration; and
3. Displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.
These actions in the plan are informed by the recent Teagasc Marginal Cost Abatement Curve report (MACC) - An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030 as an identifiable suite of actions for delivery. These actions include both efficiency measures such as the Dairy EBI programme and technical measures such as changes in fertiliser type or low emissions slurry spreading as well as a series of forestry and bioeceonomy measures.
Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACCs) are very beneficial in terms of identifying the most cost-effective ways of meeting the targets both within and between sectors and also in identifying options that cost less than the marginal benefit from abatement. MACCs provide a useful framework to engage stakeholders on opportunities to reduce emissions. However, the total amount of abatement achieved will be highly dependent on the uptake of mitigation innovations. These innovations have been well researched and proven under Irish conditions and are now considered to be best practice by our Farm Advisory Service.
While the target for the sector is challenging, immediate action and early adoption is key and there are three important actions that can be advanced immediately.
- Deepening engagement with farmers and other stakeholders to promote the necessary deployment of new technologies and changes in farming practices.
- Improving nitrogen use efficiency such as widespread adoption of low emissions slurry spreading or introduction of clover in grassland swards; and
- Continuing our support for research and innovation such as the potential of novel feed additives in grass based production systems.
I will work to ensure that the next Common Agriculture Policy is aligned with this ambition and that climate action is mainstreamed in the development of our CAP strategic plan to ensure the delivery of this target. While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland’s climate change and energy targets in the years ahead.
The Teagasc MACC identified an abatement potential (annual savings in emissions) of 1.85 Mt CO2 eq per year from agriculture between 2021 to 2030 (including those measures at a cost of over €50 per tonne), 2.97 MtCO2eq from land use change (carbon sequestration), and energy saving and fossil fuel displacement of 1..37 MtCO2 eq which combined delivers a 6.19 Mt CO2e per annum saving for the periods 2021-2030 at a net cost (including efficiency savings) of circa €34 million per annum.