FARMING should be completely carbon-neutral by 2050, a group of cross-party politicians have claimed.
With emission levels from the Irish agricultural sector currently much higher than the European Union average, the Government has been urged to set a new target in revised climate change laws due in the coming months.
According to the Oireachtas Environment Committee, agriculture contributes about 30% of the country's carbon emissions. This compares to an EU average of less than 10%.
Committee chairman Michael McCarthy said: "Climate change is one of the key issues facing the world today and it is important that we formulate the necessary policy and legislation to help Ireland move to a low carbon and environmentally sustainable economy and society."
In a report on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2013, the committee recommended that farming be brought in line with other sectors where zero-emission targets have been set.
But the committee insisted it still recognises the "strategic national importance" of agriculture in Ireland.
Mr McCarthy said the report would play a key role in informing the Government's position on a new national policy on moving to a low-carbon future.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan is due to finalise the introduction of climate legislation by the end of the year.
The committee's report warned that the relatively high levels of carbon emissions from farming "poses particular difficulties" to meeting national carbon emission targets already agreed for 2020.
It said while there has been some reduction in carbon emissions within the farming sector over the last 20 years, there are concerns that increased cattle numbers may have implications for fertiliser-related emissions.
The committee admitted that greater savings would be made by reducing carbon emissions in the other sectors - such as buildings, transport and waste.
But it insisted that a move towards carbon neutrality within farming was necessary and if it is to be achieved in the longer term, it would require efforts to be made from now to 2020.