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'Farm sector can't deliver more than 8pc cut in CO2 emissions' - IFA


IFA President Joe Healy Photo: Frank Mc Grath

IFA President Joe Healy Photo: Frank Mc Grath

IFA President Joe Healy Photo: Frank Mc Grath

An 8pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is the upper limit of what is possible from the sector, Joe Healy has insisted.

The IFA president said farming's greatest contribution to mitigating climate change would come in supporting the efforts of other sectors.

Last week the EU announced targets for emissions cuts of 30pc from agriculture, transport, waste management and the built environment. This is termed the non-emissions trading sector.

The reductions sought was slammed by the environmental lobby, with An Taisce condemning the Irish Government's prominent role in "critically undermining the EU's efforts to tackle climate change."

However, the IFA leader reiterated that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could not be achieved at the cost of compromising food production.

"Whether some here like it or not the fact is that we cannot address the climate challenge in isolation. Wider policy objectives and societal and political implications must also be considered," Mr Healy told the McGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal.

He said the "greatest and most cost effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" were in the built environment, transport and energy sectors.

Mr Healy pointed out that Irish food production was among the most carbon efficient in the world.

Policy measures

"The emissions intensity per calorie of [Irish] food output in 2013 was approximately 14pc below 2005. This figure is projected to reach 25pc by 2030, based on the delivery of current policy measures," Mr Healy said.

Farmers were also active in solar and wind energy developments, in the provision of bio-fuel and bio-energy projects, and in environmental schemes such as GLAS, he added.

However, An Taisce claimed the target levels set for the non-emission trading sector signalled "the EU's capitulation to well-funded lobbies and short term interests."

The environmental group also criticised the manner in which 9pc of the 30pc reduction sought for agriculture could be absorbed in new forestry and other carbon sinks.

"Loopholes to emissions legislation were introduced to benefit countries who are unwilling to take the necessary steps to cut emissions in certain sectors such as agriculture and transport," An Taisce claimed.

The lobby group described the EU targets as a victory for the "well-funded Irish and Danish agricultural lobbies who shouted the loudest in Brussels and kept the volume up the longest."

Agriculture produces two principal greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide. The profile of these emissions in Ireland is unique in terms of the large share which comes from enteric methane (59pc), which to date has proved intractable to reduction via new technologies.

However, Teagasc has had some success in reducing emissions of nitrous oxide, with recent research into new fertiliser formulations and nutrient use strategies indicating that nitrous oxide emissions could be reduced by up to 20pc.

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