Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

New environmental targets could see farming reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 14%

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

New environmental targets for farming could see Greenhouse Gas emissions reduced by more than 14pc in some farming sectors. 

The figures come as an EU report states that Ireland faces missing two of its thee EU 2020 climate targets. Ireland signed up to reduce carbon emissions by 20pc from its 2005 levels, but a new report from the European Commission predicts that Ireland will be over 12pc off that target.

Today's report from Bord Bia states that under its Origin Green sustainability programme for the food and drink industry, which was launched four and a half years ago, over 137,000 carbon assessments have been completed on Irish beef and dairy farms.

According to Bord Bia, over 37,000 individual improvement targets have been established for Irish beef farmers, and another 28,000 for dairy farmers. When completed, these targets could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7pc and 14pc respectively, it says.

Origin Green is a national sustainability plan for the entire food and drink sector and 800 farmers a week are assessed to provide information on the performance of Irish farms with regard to sustainable practices.

Since 2011, over 117,000 farm carbon assessments have taken place on over 49,000 beef farms in Ireland, which show that there remains considerable variation among farms with results ranging from 5kg to 18kg CO2equivalent/kg beef produced.

Results to date from Bord Bia show a minor eduction in the average carbon footprint from 11.59kg CO2e/kg beef in 2015 to 11.58 in 2016.

It goes on to say that if those performing lower than average moved to the average, emissions could potentially reduce by 500,000t CO2e annually.

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Each 5pc improvement achieved by BLQAS farms currently behind the average would help reduce GHG emissions by almost 185,000 tonnes CO2e.

The report by Bord Bia shows that 220 major players in the Irish food, drink and horticulture sector, representing 90pc of total exports, committed to more than 1,600 sustainability targets during 2016, a 100pc increase on 2015 figures.

Set in areas such as raw material sourcing, energy usage and emissions, water and waste management, and social sustainability, the ambitious targets have been established as part of the industry’s participation in Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme.

Some 70pc of dairy farms in Ireland are certified part of the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) and its figures show that a wide level of variation remains with results ranging from 0.8kg – 1.7kg CO2e/ fat and protein corrected milk.

It says that a sustained reduction in average carbon footprint from 1.21 kg CO2e/kg fat & protein corrected milk in 2015 to 1.14kg in 2016, and that if those performing lower than average could move to the average, emissions could potentially reduce by over 930,000t CO2e annually.

For all SDAS farms, every 5pc improvement would result in a drop of almost 380,000 tonnes CO2e. To date, over 28,000 individual improvement targets have been established. When completed, these targets could potentially reduce GHG emissions by 14pc.

At manufacturing level, food and drink companies are required to create three to five year sustainability plans to become fully verified members of Origin Green. Last year saw 98 Irish companies become fully verified members, more than doubling the performance of any other year. This brings the total number of fully verified Origin Green members to 220.

Bord Bia offers significant support and resources to companies throughout the plan development process, with each company on average receiving 15 hours of one-to-one support and guidance.

Bord Bia says that at manufacturing level, since 2012, over 1.1m cubic metres has been saved (equivalent of €7.5million), while there has been a 9.5pc reduction in energy usage across the member base.

It also says that since 2012, there has been a reduction of 4.600t being sent to landfill.

Online Editors