Climate groups: New ag roadmap will fail to deliver necessary emission cuts

Published by Kayle Crosson on

10 December 2020 

Climate groups have warned that the recently published Ag Climatise roadmap will fail to deliver the necessary agriculture emission cuts. 

The blueprint for the largest emitting sector achieving climate neutrality was published yesterday by the Department of Agriculture and envisions a “climate neutral food system compatible with the Paris temperature goals”. 

However, the Environmental Pillar explicitly said the roadmap does not align with the Paris Agreement, to which Ireland is party to. 

The coalition criticised the Department’s goal to “stabilise” methane emissions, and argued that they must be “reduced immediately and consistently, alongside CO2 emission reductions and sustained land-based carbon removals”. 

Sadhbh O’Neill of Stop Climate Chaos was critical of the document failing to address the growing herd size and noted that breed efficiencies as promoted in the roadmap, “have not yet delivered the promised emission reductions despite being promised by Teagasc for the past 8 years.” 

Just last week Teagasc published its roadmap for the dairy sector, and anticipates further growth in the herd size over the next ten years, and Ms. O’Neill warned that these additional emissions “cannot be offset by efficiency measures or by other sectors or by land sequestration”. 

“The fact that Teagasc, the national advisory body for agriculture, is envisaging a growth in cow numbers to 1.65 million by 2027 tells the real story: this is Business As Usual and agriculture is still not doing its fair share of the climate effort”, she said. 

Water quality, air quality & biodiversity 

The Environmental Pillar warned that the strategy, while including “a welcome nod” to the interlinked nature of agriculture’s impact on climate and water quality, it “fails to commit to fulfilling our legally binding Water Framework Directive obligations”. 

The coalition’s statement also noted that there was “no evidence” of joined up thinking between the document and meeting biodiversity restoration targets in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy. 

Additionally, without a decrease in cattle numbers, Ireland will continue to be in breach of EU law in regards to ammonia emissions, the Pillar warned. 

Ammonia is a toxic gas and a major by-product of livestock agriculture, and Ireland has been in a longstanding breach of its limits under the National Emission Ceiling Directive. 

“Ireland has no credible strategy for effectively combating our increasing ammonia emissions. We simply have too many animals producing too much slurry,” Dr. Elaine McGoff of An Taisce and the Pillar said. 

“Herd reduction is one obvious solution, but one which the Department of Agriculture is apparently unwilling to seriously consider,” she added. 

It is anticipated that the roadmap itself will be updated in line with the Programme for Government, which substantially increased the state’s year-on-year emissions reduction to 7 per cent up until the end of the decade. 

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