Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Emissions calculations 'penalise' farmers

Dave Dobbins

Farmers and farming organisations cite flaws in the emissions counting systems which penalise them. For instance, emissions reduction measures undertaken on the farm are not counted towards the agriculture total.

"If I was to put solar panels on my roof, and drive a more efficient car, those savings would be counted under energy and transport, not agriculture," points out Harold Kingston.

They also point to Government and IFA initiatives. The Smart Farm initiative, the Knowledge Transfer scheme, the GLAS agri-environment scheme are all aimed at various emissions-reduction measures on the farm.

The fact that the Paris Agreement says sustainable food production must be protected during the transition to low-carbon economy is also of comfort to farmers.

"When it comes to climate change, we're limited in what we can do," says Tomas Cooney, the IFA's environment spokesman. "But we're doing what we can. For example, 87pc of measures in the Rural Development Programme, such as the GLAS and Knowledge Transfer initiatives, have emissions reduction measures built in to them.

"Then you have the IFA Smart Farming initiative, which looks at using energy more effectively on farms, promotes better use of soil sampling, which will reduce waste of fertiliser."

Energy crop miscanthus
Energy crop miscanthus

Solutions to the emissions from ruminant animals are hard to come by. "There are other ways we're looking at reducing emissions from agriculture.

"New Zealand is leading the way in research into methane reduction in animals. It might be different types of grass, different breeds of animals, there's a certain amount of genetics involved too," says Harold Kingston.

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"We could grow more biomass for renewable heat - things like willow and miscanthus - but we need the minister to do something to give farmers an incentive to do that," says Thomas Cooney.

IFA president Joe Healy, at this year's Magill Summer School, admitted that such measures can have a limited effect overall. "The science tells us that Irish agriculture can reduce emissions by no greater than 8pc.

"The greatest and most cost-effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions come in the built environment, transport and energy sectors," he said.

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