New figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which show a 4.6% fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture in 2023 are “very positive”, the minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine said today (Tuesday, July 9).

The EPA’s provisional GHG emissions report for 2023 highlights a national reduction in emissions of 6.8% – which includes the largest year on year reduction in emissions from agriculture – to 55.01 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq).

However the EPA also underlined that agriculture was the largest contributor to the overall emissions accounting for 37.8% of the total – excluding Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) last year.

Breakdown of GHG emissions in all key sectors Source: EPA

The key factor behind the drop in GHG emissions from agriculture was primarily down to an 18% reduction in fertiliser nitrogen (N) use, reduced lime application and an overall reduction in numbers of livestock last year.

GHG emissions

According to Minister Charlie McConalogue, while it is critical that Ireland “maintains food output” it must also reduce the climate footprint.

He said that the latest EPA figures “show that agriculture is on the right path, especially following on from reductions in 2022”.

“It is very encouraging to see the work that farmers are putting in on the ground reflected in the results.

“It’s important that we maintain this positive trajectory and continue in our efforts to achieve the commitment of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture by 2030,” Minister McConalogue added.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) the fall in emissions from agriculture show that “policies and strategies are bearing fruit”.

It detailed that this included measures such as the “genotyping of 740,000 calves, promoting the use of renewable energy on farms, reducing the use of fertilisers and pesticides, improving soil health and promoting biodiversity”.

Eddy covariance tower deployed on a Tillage site in the Castledockrell catchment, Co. Wexford Source: Teagasc

This year has also seen the further roll out of the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory  (NASCO) which supplies the scientific infrastructure to measure GHG fluxes from soils.

This will include 28 Eddy Covariance Flux Towers located on various agricultural grasslands, mineral soils and peatlands sites.

According to Minister McConalogue collaborative work between DAFM, Teagasc and the EPA has also led to a refining of the GHG Inventory.

He said these inventory refinements have led to adjustments in relation to the emissions related to live weight and average daily weight gain.

Green Party

Meanwhile the Green Party has also welcomed the national reduction in GHG emissions last year and described it as “an incredible result”.

The new leader of the Green Party, Roderic O’Gorman, said: 
“As we celebrate this milestone, it’s important to recognise the hard work and dedication of everyone involved.

“Many commentators said that this level of reduction would be impossible – that it would be too unpopular and would require too much hard work to accomplish.

“This collective achievement demonstrates that with a shared purpose and collective effort, substantial progress in combating climate change is not only possible but is within our grasp.

“The benefit of this action is being felt on a daily basis, with people saving money on things as diverse as public transport, energy bills and agricultural inputs.”