The Government’s policy position for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. There are three strands to my Department’s approach to carbon neutrality:
i. reducing agricultural emissions;
ii. increasing carbon sequestration; and
iii. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.
It is not currently possible to determine whether a farm is carbon neutral or not as our understanding of carbon sequestration levels from grassland soils is insufficient to be able to assign a sequestration figure at individual farm level. In fact, grasslands nationally are shown to be a source of emissions due to levels of farm activity on peat soils managed for agricultural use.
My Department and its agencies have a strong focus on improving the efficiency and sustainability of Irish farming and have invested heavily in several schemes and measures such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme and our Agri-Environment Scheme, Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). We are also actively promoting the adoption of technologies, for example, the funding of Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) equipment under Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) and research findings for example soil fertility and other mitigation actions to promote efficiency and sustainability.
Furthermore, Ireland is a world leader in areas such as sustainable auditing and carbon foot-printing under the Origin Green programme. In total, Bord Bia has cumulatively undertaken over 200,000 carbon footprint assessments on a national scale to date, a world first.
I am confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to Ireland’s decarbonisation and will require collaboration, co-operation and collective responsibility.