Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities such as grassland and cropland management under agricultural use. The definition of cropland, and separately grassland, includes associated hedgerows. While LULUCF emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets. It is, therefore, essential that Ireland has robust policies in place to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.
Hedgerows and non-forest woodland patches are an important feature of the Irish pastoral landscape, due in part to their roles in biodiversity, agricultural management and potential carbon sequestration. In recognition of this, environmental payment schemes have included incentives for hedgerow plantation, maintenance and protection. The latest estimates suggest that the hedgerow length in Ireland is over 600,000 km. On the basis of the information available at the moment, hedgerows could potentially sequester somewhere in the region of 0.1 MtCO2 to 0.5 MtCO2. In order to refine the figures to allow for inclusion in the National GHG Inventory, further remote sensing investigations would be required to create a national detailed inventory of hedgerows. Furthermore, hedgerow surveys would be required to refine classifications and identify appropriate sites. Proposals for research along these lines are under consideration in the Environmental Protection Agency in the context of its 2019 research call.
I recently published the all of Government Climate Action Plan 2019, which includes 34 actions and associated time-bound steps to delivery, pertaining to Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use. Many of these actions will facilitate the development and implementation of policies to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.