Carbon neutral agriculture by 2050
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, T.D., has today launched a National ‘Climate & Air Roadmap’ for the Agriculture Sector entitled Ag Climatise. The roadmap sets an ambitious vision for a ‘climate neutral agriculture sector by 2050’ and includes 29 actions with specific and challenging targets aimed at reducing the environmental footprint and further building on the strong credentials of Irish Agriculture.
Minister McConalogue stated, “I am delighted to present the Ag Climatise roadmap of tangible actions which will support the continued development of a modern, environmentally sustainable, agricultural sector and which has been developed with farmers at is core. This roadmap follows extensive engagement with all stakeholders and identifies key pathways and targets for improving the climate and air footprint of our sector. Irish Agriculture has a strong reputation for the safety and environmental sustainability of its produce and this roadmap challenges us to build on this reputation. We need to start doing this today, and it is with this firmly in mind that I am publishing this roadmap now.”
The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, also welcomed the launch of the Ag Climatise roadmap, recognising it as the beginning of the action needed to ensure the sustainable development of the agriculture and land-use sector.
She said, “The roadmap includes some ambitious actions on reducing emissions and puts a focus on alternative land uses, sequestration, and renewable energy. Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Emissions from the sector have been going in the wrong direction. We need a clear pathway to reverse this trend, and this roadmap sets us on that path.’’
Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon T.D., noted that the agriculture sector is the first sector to produce such a detailed plan to reduce the climate impact of its activities, and that a key objective is to better explain what the sector is doing in this space. He said the publication of Ag Climatise meets an important Programme for Government commitment to publish a roadmap to ensure the sustainable development of the agriculture and land-use sector.
He stated, “Farmers are custodians of the landscape and are already doing a lot in this space. There is more to be done, and our climate ambition can only be achieved by working closely with our farmers. This roadmap provides the needed platform to increase our focus on environmental sustainability and to explore new developments with the farmer at the centre of our plans.”
The actions in the roadmap are primarily based on the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACC) regarding greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions. Other actions proposed are based on a public consultation exercise which launched in late 2019 which generated 100 written submission and 400 on-line responses. Further in-person and virtual stakeholder events took place during Q1 and Q2 of 2020.
The roadmap is very much a ‘living document’, with a clear commitment to engaging with stakeholders on achieving what are no-doubt very challenging targets in key areas such as reducing fertiliser use and increasing use of low emission manure spreading technology. Delivery on these actions will require engagement and collaboration amongst all the stakeholders including farmers, farm bodies, industry and stakeholders to deliver on these challenging targets.
The roadmap also contains a number of cross cutting actions in this regard, including further research and innovation to identify added opportunities.
Minister McConalogue concluded, ‘‘The Department will continue to engage collaboratively and will establish expert groups to oversee the development and implementation of actions where a path to delivery is unclear. Additionally as science and innovation continue to develop climate solutions, there will be further opportunities to support and develop the environmental credentials of what is our most important native industry. Our farmers and food producers continue to engage positively and proactively in terms of tackling climate change and I commend them for their continued commitment to this cause.’’
Note for Editors:
Agriculture is the largest sectoral contributor to climate emissions due to the significant role that the sector plays in the Irish economy, the nature of biological emissions and the lack of heavy industry as part of the Irish economy. In the provisional 2019 EPA inventory, agriculture accounted for 35% of emissions.
Arising from both EU and national commitments, DAFM is publishing a climate and air roadmap to deliver on our Irish and International commitments as well as meeting consumer expectations. This roadmap will also have benefits for air and water quality. For the first time, a DAFM published document will set a long term vision for the primary agriculture sector to become climate neutral as follows:
By 2050, develop a climate neutral food system compatible with the Paris temperature goals whereby the climate impact of biogenic methane is reduced to zero and remaining agricultural emissions are balanced by removals, along with a significant uptake of renewable energy on farm.
In practical terms, this means:
- Reducing CO2 to zero as soon as feasible,
- Declining non -CO2 emissions (methane and nitrous oxide) and
- Enhancing CO2 removals to balance historic CO2 emissions and residual non CO2 emissions.
The roadmap is presented as a living document which can be updated to reflect developments with regard to the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill and the Climate Action Plan 2021 and future iterations.
The report is available here.
The roadmap focuses both on the immediate actions that the sector must take, alongside the more medium to long term actions. This roadmap will underpin the environmental chapter of the new 2030 agri-food strategy document.
The approach to ensuring the sector achieves its climate ambitions is three pronged and includes
- reducing emissions;
- enhancing the development of sustainable land management and
(iii)contributing to sustainable energy.
Significant progress will be needed in all three areas if the sector is to achieve its overall objective of becoming climate neutral.
Approach to deliver a reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas inventory
Livestock numbers is the biggest driver of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions with approximately 80% of emissions associated directly with the animal and the management of the manure they produce. Fertiliser nitrogen use accounts for a further 12% with soils and carbon dioxide from lime manufacturing making up the remainder.
Over the next 10 years, the roadmap will target a 40-50% reduction in nitrous oxide emissions associated with fertiliser use. This will involve an absolute reduction in the overall level of nitrogen fertiliser being used on Irish farm from a high of 408,000 tons in 2018 to 325,000 in 2030, with an interim target of 350,000 tonnes in 2025.This reduction is very much in line with the EU Farm to Fork strategy, indeed, the reduction target is a 20% reduction from peak usage in 2018. In addition, a significant quantity of the remaining straight nitrogen fertiliser will be applied in a form that is coated with a urease inhibitor to reduce nitrous oxide losses further. This will have significant co-benefits for water quality and biodiversity. Some of the actions are incredibly ambitious, none more so than having 90% of livestock manure applied by Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) Technology by the end of 2027 and having 350,000 ha of organic production by the end of the decade.
The requirements for the fertiliser industry will be transformative, unprotected urea will be phased out by 2023 and 65% of all straight Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) will be applied in a protected form by 2030.
Other actions of note
The roadmap includes actions on land management- namely re-wetting of carbon rich soils to convert these soils from carbon sources to sinks. It contains an action to develop a pilot scheme to reward farmers for the carbon benefits their farms provide There are a number of actions on sustainable energy, where farmers will be encouraged to increase the update of renewable energy on farm.
Finally, there are number of cross cutting actions, including further research and innovation and establishing a centre of excellence in Ireland on climate smart agriculture.