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Significant Efforts Required to Ensure Irish Agriculture Reduces GHG Emissions

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Significant Efforts Required to Ensure Irish Agriculture Reduces GHG Emissions

Significant Efforts Required to Ensure Irish Agriculture Reduces  GHG Emissions
June 29
09:55 2018

A new report from Teagasc indicates that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Irish agriculture are set to increase over the coming decade, unless significant efforts are taken that would mitigate these emissions. The new Teagasc report – Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030 – assesses the likely level of future GHG emissions if no action is taken to address emissions over the period 2021 to 2030. The report highlights the potential for GHG abatement based on current scientific knowledge to limit the emissions from the sector.

While emissions from the sector have generally been on the decline since the late 1990s, the recent growth in Irish agricultural output, and in particular the expansion of the dairy sector, has seen emissions begin to increase. The report projects that agricultural GHG emissions could increase by 9% relative to 2005 by 2030 in the absence of mitigation. Ireland has an EU commitment to reduce overall GHG emissions by 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 relative to the 2005 level.

The report identifies a total of 28 different abatement measures that could be employed to reduce emissions. These measures would either reduce emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture or increase the level of carbon sequestration through additional forestry and bio-energy production.

The report emphasises farm practices that improve efficiencies at farm level and thereby reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions.  Other actions are identified that sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere such as afforestation.

The principal mitigation measures include further improvements in dairy and beef genetics, improved nitrogen use efficiency, altering the fertilizer type applied, increased afforestation, improved sequestration in agricultural soils and enhanced production of biomass and biogas.

Without action to address agricultural emissions the Teagasc report finds that the Baseline level of GHG emissions in carbon dioxide equivalent terms could reach almost 20.5 million tonnes per annum by 2030.

Over the period to 2030 the carbon dioxide equivalent mitigation identified in the report could average 6.19 million tonnes per annum.  This comprises of 1.85 million tonnes per year from agriculture, 2.97 million tonnes per year from land-use change and 1.37 million tonnes per year from energy saving and fossil fuel displacement.

Most of the measures analysed could be delivered at a cost of less than €50 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Summarising the report’s findings, Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle said: “With agricultural production likely to increase further, the sector faces significant challenges in meeting its emissions obligations. Teagasc has now provided a menu of cost effective mitigation options for reducing agricultural emissions that will go a long way towards overcoming these challenges. Our report highlights, in particular, the need for enhanced knowledge transfer as the rate at which mitigation measures are adopted by Irish farmers is of critical importance if the maximum amount of mitigation is to be achieved. Furthermore this study provides a useful framework for the complex discussions surrounding agricultural GHG mitigation that we can expect over the next few years.”

Currently agriculture comprises one-third of Irish GHG emissions. Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions principally comprise of methane (from enteric fermentation and manure management) and nitrous oxide (from fertilizer and animal excreta deposition on soils). Conversely, grasslands and forests soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting some of these emissions.

The full report can be viewed at https://www.teagasc.ie/media/An-Analysis-of-Abatement-Potential-of-Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-in-Irish-Agriculture-2021-2030.pdf

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