Farming facing big challenge to find ways to cut emissions

An enhanced plan to reduce agricultural emissions will be needed from the sector if it is to deliver a reduction in emissions of 24-26pc.

ources say a reduction of 24-26pc is likely to be agreed this week, with the three party leaders in the coalition government — Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan — due to meet this evening.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue and Minister for the Environment Mr Ryan (the Green Party leader) and the Cabinet sub-committee on climate met yesterday, and the issue will now be taken up by the coalition leaders.

Agriculture will have to ramp up plans to achieve such reductions under the Government’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce total national emissions by 51pc by 2030.

Last week, figures from the Environmental Protection Agency showed that agriculture emissions increased by 3pc in 2021, driven by increased fertiliser use (up 5.2pc) and a 2.8pc rise in the number of dairy cows.

The baseline year from which emissions are being reduced from is 2018, and in that year agriculture produced 23 million tonnes of CO₂. To achieve reductions of 22-30pc would mean getting that figure down to 16-18Mt.

Key measures proposed to date include improved efficiency at farm level; implementation of Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) technologies, such as using protected urea, improving breeding efficiency and animal health etc; reduce chemical nitrogen usage, and utilising incentives policymakers may come up with to reduce emissions.

However, fully implementing all proposals in the MACC would only reduce emissions by 2Mt CO2, according to Teagasc.

Farm organisations yesterday stressed that farmers must be recognised for the contributions they are making to reducing emissions from other sectors.

“The reality is that farmers will also be contributing to reducing emissions from other sectors,” IFA President Tim Cullinan said.

“The plan shows that while the expansion of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) will reduce farming emissions by between 100,000 and 200,000t of CO2 equivalent, it will actually deliver a reduction of 400,000t for the energy sector.

“Other measures such as forestry and carbon farming are currently counted in the Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector and not towards reducing agricultural emissions.”

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