Climate Action Committee report: What’s in it on agri production?

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action published its long-awaited report on recommendations to tackle climate change in Ireland – including a substantial section on Irish agriculture – yesterday evening (Thursday, March 28).

The report – of which fears had been expressed that it might have been delayed by a week – was published following a series of votes on amendments to the document, with some members of the committee not happy with elements of the earlier draft.

The report was, however, adopted by the committee following a majority vote, with Sinn Fein and Solidarity People Before Profit members the only opposition to the document.

The report noted the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, which included a call for a tax to be imposed on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector.

The committee, however, decided against putting forth this same recommendation at this time. However, the committee said it did not consider the “complex” issues around tax in sufficient detail.

It therefore recommended that the Standing Committee on Climate Action should address this issue and seek to explore appropriate and effective mechanisms on GHG pricing including emissions trading.

The committee said it acknowledges that farming is by and large a low-margin business and the wider transition for the sector should be paramount to these considerations.

The Oireachtas group did, however, call for the implementation of Teagasc’s mitigation pathways, which consist of:
  • Agricultural mitigation, through improved breeding, changing fertiliser types and slurry spreading;
  • Land use and carbon sequestration through increased broadleaf forestry and improved pasture management; and
  • Energy efficiency and fossil fuel displacement through biofuel and anaerobic digestion (AD).

A total of 28 measures were identified by Teagasc to represent a “substantial contribution” to meeting 2030 emissions targets.

In terms of agricultural mitigation, addressing the issue of soil fertility and better management of the use of artificial fertiliser was highlighted, especially the need to bring lime pH to its optimal level.

The committee called on the Department of Agriculture, as well as Teagasc and the Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a review of nitrogen fertiliser management and imports in 2019.

Knowledge transfer and communications between stakeholders and peers was earmarked, as was the role of young farmers, such as a greater support of schemes such as the Land Mobility Scheme.

Regarding agricultural diversification, the committee recommends the establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum for developing programmes and schemes to support such diversification.

It cited potential opportunities including: horticultural production; biomass production; and growing alternative crops such as willow and hemp.

More support is called for for “smart” farming schemes such as the Smart Farming Programme, Dairy Sustainability Ireland, Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme and Origin Green.