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22% emissions reduction in agriculture 'challenging but achievable' - farmers' association

The Climate Action Plan proposed that the agriculture sector reduces its emissions by 22% to 30% by 2030.

Cattle in Co Kerry
Cattle in Co Kerry
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A 22% REDUCTION in agricultural emissions by 2030 will be “challenging but achievable, the Irish Farmers’ Association has said. 

The agriculture sector is prepared to make changes that will allow it to meet the lower end of a target range proposed in the Climate Action Plan 2021, the IFA told an Oireachtas Committee this afternoon.

IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said that farmers “have a major role to play in reducing Ireland’s emissions and contributing to addressing the climate change challenge” and “are committed to playing their part and have already made significant investments to improve efficiency and reduce emissions”.

“Farmers are engaging positively with new guidance on farmer practices and environmental programmes,” Rushe told the Committee.

It is vital that the sector is set a reduction target that is achievable, that empowers and supports farmers to make the necessary changes to farm management practices and adopt new technologies to reduce emission footprints.

“A reduction of 22% for agriculture is extremely challenging but based on potential mitigation measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan, is achievable.”

“The lower target will also recognise the social and economic importance of the sector as well as the vulnerabilities and tackling challenges faced by the sector.”

Some climate experts have criticised the proposed reduction for the sector on the grounds that it is the lowest target for any industry – a 22% to 30% reduction by 2030 – despite being the largest contributor in the baseline figure.

Emissions Reductions by Sector Source: Climate Action Plan 2021

Climate writer and campaigner John Gibbons previously told The Journal that the sector will need to make massive changes that are “politically unpalatable” to adequately cut its emissions.

“We could find ourselves in a situation that Irish agriculture in 2030 is producing more emissions than in 2010,” he said. “There is no way of small efficiency tweaks being able to deliver massive emissions reductions.”

The Climate Action Plan requires the Department of Agriculture to “produce detailed plans to manage the sustainable environmental footprint of the dairy and beef sectors” by the second quarter of 2022.

The Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action met for the third day in a row today to consider the first-ever carbon budgets proposed for Ireland.

Representatives of the Climate Change Advisory Council, which prepared the carbon budgets, came before the Committee on Tuesday, followed yesterday by a panel of climate scientists.

This afternoon, industry representatives emphasised the importance of considering the impacts of climate policies on sectoral groups.

They called on the government to implement clear plans in advance of changes to safeguard against any potential negative effects, such as job losses.

The current proposed budgets give three multi-year cycles that set limits on the total emissions Ireland can afford to produce during those time brackets.

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The first cycle, which lasts until 2025, allows for a total of 295 million tonnes (Mt). The limit between 2026 and 2030 is 200 Mt, falling again to 151 Mt between 2031 and 2035. 

The Climate Action Plan 2021, drawing on the overall proposed limits, outlined potential emissions ceilings that would allocate the reductions between sectors.

The final carbon budgets and sectoral ceilings are expected to be embedded in the updated Climate Action Plan 2022 published at the end of this year.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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