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Ireland intends to cut farm emissions by a quarter by 2030
Greenhouse gas emissions from Ireland’s farming sector must drop by 25 per cent by 2030. This was announced by the Irish coalition government in July and is part of the country’s climate pledge to halve all carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Ireland is a bit of an outlier when it comes to farm emissions. Cattle outnumber the human population, which results in the highest per capita methane emissions in the European Union. Just over a third of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from the agricultural sector. The new sectoral target was a compromise between farmers who wanted 22 per cent reductions and environmental groups and other sectors who wanted agriculture to cut emissions by 30 per cent.
Friends of the Earth CEO Oisín Coghlan commented on the deal in a press release: “25% is lower than we need from agriculture. It makes other sectors’ emission cuts even more challenging as they’ll now have to pick up the slack and make cuts of around 65%.” “On the other hand 25% is not what the agri-lobbyists wanted either. The last few weeks have shown that the Irish Farmers’ Association don’t have a veto on Irish climate policy like they used to.
They said that anything more than 22% would impact the current business model for Irish agriculture.” Other sectors face significantly greater emission reductions according to the deal: a 75% cut from electricity, a 50% cut from transport, as well as 45% and 40% emission reductions for commercial and residential buildings respectively. There is no common understanding of what the new 2030 target will mean for livestock numbers. According to calculations by the Irish Farmers’ Journal it would entail a 13% decrease in the beef herd and 11% in dairy cattle. Meanwhile, the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, has stated that no farmer will be forced to reduce their herd as a result of the climate plan.
This should be seen in the light of steady expansion in the dairy herd, since the EU milk quotas were scrapped in 2015. However, there is no reason to doubt that the long-term net-zero goal will require transformative changes to Irish agriculture. According to a recently published research study in Nature Sustainability, the number of livestock in Ireland would need to be halved in combination with major afforestation efforts.
Sources: The Guardian, 29 July 2022, Ireland targets 25% cut in agriculture emissions but farmers voice anger https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/29/ireland-targets-25-cut-agr...
Friends of the Earth Ireland, press release 28 July 2022, https://www.foe.ie/press/25-emissionreductions-is-lower-than-we-need-fro...
Irish Farmers Journal, 28 July 2022, Ireland targets 25% cut in agriculture emissions but farmers voice anger https://www.farmersjournal.ie/analysis-whatthe-25-emissions-cut-means-fo...
RTÉ, 28 July 2022, No farmer will be forced to cut herd – McConalogue, https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2022/0728/1312636-emissions-ireland/
Financial Times, 28 July 2022, Hard-fought deal reached on cutting Irish farms’ greenhouse emissions, https://www.ft.com/content/ce6433a2-7756-498e-b26a-c4c0fc3050ed
Duffy et al. (2022). Randomized national land management strategies for net-zero emissions. Nature Sustain