Agricultural emissions set to grow by 4pc over next decade - EPA

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Agricultural emissions are set to grow by four per cent over the next decade due to increasing cattle numbers, according to a new report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report states that in 2020 agriculture which is the largest contributor to emissions will account for 34pc of overall emissions while in 2030 this is projected to grow to 38pc.

The increase in emissions is due to expanding dairy cow numbers which are projected to rise by 7pc between 2018 and 2020 and 11pc between 2020 and 2030.

Fertiliser nitrogen use is also projected to increase by 5pc between 2018 and 2020 and 6pc between 2020 and 2030.

It explains that total emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 1.4pc over the period 2018–2020 to 20.5Mt CO2eq under existing measures.

Emissions are also projected to increase by 4pc over the period 2018–2030 to 21 Mt CO2eq.

Under a scenario where extra mitigation measures are put in place emissions are projected to increase by 1pc and 3pc from current levels to 2020 and 2030 respectively.

The difference between the two scenarios is due to efficiency assumptions that are incorporated into the additional measures scenario.

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The data underpinning the agriculture projections include projected animal numbers, crop areas and nitrogen fertiliser application to soils as supplied by Teagascto the EPA in April 2018.

Projections are based on an updated analysis undertaken by Teagasc of the projected national herd population, crop areas and fertilizer use which takes into account Food Wise 2025 policy targets and reflects trends in agricultural production at the time of preparing the projected activity data

By 2030 it is estimated that dairy cow numbers will have increased to 1.63 million head compared with current levels of 1.38 million head.

There is projected to be a contraction (by 3.2pc) in animal numbers in the less profitable ‘other cattle’ sector between 2020 and 2030. Fertiliser nitrogen use will be approximately 410,400 tonnes in 2030 compared with 369,000 tonnes in 2017.

Over the last decade fertiliser use has been subject to considerable fluctuation due to both changes in prices and variability in agronomic conditions, making the projection of future levels of fertiliser use challenging.

Head of Policy with Stop Climate Chaos Catherine Devitt  said given the absence of fany focused decarbonisation plan to date, the EPA projections, although dismal, are not surprising.

“Even with all the action plans promised by the Government for 2020 to 2030, Ireland is still way off target to achieving its 2030 obligations. Clearly, these plans are not working,” she said.

“The message to Government is now obvious. We need to radically and immediately scale up action if we are to align our near to medium-term climate targets with our obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

ICOS president Michael Spellman added that Ireland cannot escape its commitments to reduce our total emissions from agriculture.

“While our farms are extremely tightly regulated, and operate to world leading standards, we must constantly enhance our performance with continuous improvement in standards of animal welfare, biodiversity maintenance, and water quality and usage.

“We should be proud of, and defend our industry, and its existing sustainability credentials built on the family farming model. We have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are the custodians of the rural environment, and we do that job well, while producing the most nutritious, safest, pasture-based beef and dairy in the world."

Online Editors


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