Annual review 2020: Target to be set for level of energy supplied by biomethane injection

It seems as though there has been a lot of information provided recently on how agriculture will contribute to the nation’s climate targets – with the newest being in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Annual Review and Outlook for 2020.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue launched the report today (Thursday, October 8), which entails the recent developments across the sectors, and what the outlook is going forward.

One chapter in the document is focused on the environment and rural development.

Background

In June 2019, the all-of-government Climate Action Plan to tackle climate breakdown was published, setting out over 180 actions to meet Ireland’s EU target for 2030 and putting Ireland on the right trajectory for 2050.

It set “an ambitious target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while acknowledging the national policy position of an approach to carbon neutrality within the agriculture and land use sector”, according to the department.

Some of the agriculture targets of the 2019 plan are below:

However, this plan has now been amended, with the publication yesterday of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020. The new bill provides a legal basis for the establishment of a new Climate Action Council, the establishment of an Oireachtas Climate Action Committee, among other steps.

Ag Climatise and biomethane

In the report, the department looks at the future of Ag Climatise, a “national climate and air roadmap” for the agriculture sector to 2030 and beyond, due to be published in 2020 and intended to be a roadmap for the agri-food sector over the next decade.

According to the department, in this roadmap, of interest particularly to the agriculture sector are the proposals surrounding bioenergy sustainability, renewable energy and bioenergy sustainability, which focus on developing the decarbonisation potential of advanced biofuels and aims to clarify the role of food-based biofuels post 2020.

As part of this roadmap, the Department of Climate Action, Communications and Environment, with input from the Department of Agriculture, will set a target for the level of energy to be supplied by biomethane injection in 2030.

Following on from this, the Department of Agriculture will consider the potential of anaerobic digestion (AD) systems to supply biomethane from agricultural feedstocks such as animal manure and grass/silage inputs, including options to avail of AD infrastructure to manage animal manure production.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Also included in the report are the contributions that agriculture has made to greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Ireland at 34% of the total in 2018 (according to EPA provisional estimates for GHG emissions published in October 2019).

Total fossil fuel consumption in agriculture/forestry/fishing activities increased by 7.8% in 2018.

Agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% or 0.38MT CO2 eq in 2018 following an increase in 2017 of 2.9%. The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2018 are higher dairy cow numbers (+1.9%) with an increase in milk production of 4.3%.

In 2018, there were also increased CO2 eq emissions from synthetic fertiliser application on agricultural soils (+10.6%). Other cattle and sheep numbers decreased by 1.2% and 1.7% respectively, whereas pig and poultry numbers increased by 0.7% and 0.5% respectively.