Ireland introduces potential herd emissions reduction target

Ireland has joined the list of countries to introduce controversial farm emissions legislation. Photo: Irish Federation of Farmers

IRELAND has been added to the list of countries committing to drastically reduce agricultural emissions, aiming for a 25% reduction between 2018 and 2030.

The target has sparked furious debate in Ireland, with the tech farming lobby raising concerns about farmers’ livelihoods and the possibility of reducing herd sizes. This is part of an overall goal of reducing carbon emissions by 51%.

Ireland has become the third country in recent months to pass controversial farm emissions legislation – with the Netherlands and New Zealand also making big commitments.

Irish Farmers’ Association chairman Tim Cullinan said the deal to implement the target was about the survival of the government rather than the survival of rural Ireland.

“The government agreed on a target with no pathway to get there or any budget to help farmers reduce emissions,” Mr Cullinan said.

“They have no idea of ​​the economic and social impact of today’s decision on the agricultural sector or rural Ireland. Farmers across the country will rightly worry about what this means for their future.

“The implementation plan to achieve the goal will be vital. I want to make it clear that any attempt to undermine farmers’ livelihoods or the viability of the sector, in order to achieve these goals, will be vigorously opposed by the IFA. »

While I understand these concerns, I disagree with them

Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan today wrote an op-ed on legislation in the Irish Examiner, where he addressed the concerns of the farm lobby.

“While I understand these concerns, I disagree with them,” Mr. Ryan said.

“This agreement is really about ensuring that Irish family farms can thrive, diversify their sources of income and be adapted to meet the needs of agribusinesses and low-carbon consumers.

“However, while it is important that we have healthy and robust debate and continuous scrutiny of government decisions, the big task now is to put in place, at scale and quickly, the systems, supports and infrastructure we need to implement the ambitions of this agreement.”

Will there be a destocking?

While drafting the legislation, a parliamentary committee heard from leading scientists Frank Mitloehnerfrom the University of California Davis and the University of Oxford Myles Allen.

The couple were asked about the prospect of increasing herd sizes and its impact on global warming. Prof Allen said increasing herd sizes would contribute to warming, but there was an important nuance to the information.

“We need to make it clear to countries what they are doing if they increase herd sizes because that would contribute to global warming,” Prof Allen said.

“If you reduce a herd, it has the same impact on reducing global temperature as planting lots of trees, actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. If recognized, these reductions could go a long way in dissipating the concerns of farmers.

Professor Mitloehner said reducing methane emissions by using measures such as feed additives or capturing it from manure would also have a cooling effect.

“A constant source of methane does not increase warming. If you decrease methane like we did in California, that reduction in methane results in reduced warming,” Prof Mitloehner said.

“Methane is only a problem if we ignore it, if we manage it, we can be part of the solution.”

Professor Allen was part of a group that created a livestock-specific global warming potential calculator, called GWP* – which accounts for biogenic methane differently than other sectors like transport. He said the effect of livestock on global warming was often not properly considered.

“We can solve the problem of not reporting the impact of warming tomorrow and you can calculate it at the individual farm level,” he said.

“If you did this it would be interesting for Irish farmers as they would find out what they can do to reduce global temperatures. This reporting problem is not a problem we need to have.

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