The new Climate Action Plan will aim to incentivise farmers to reduce livestock numbers on a voluntary basis from next year.

The strategy, which was published by the government this afternoon (Wednesday, December 21), sets out measures to accelerate the actions needed for Ireland to meet its climate change targets.

Climate Action Plan 2023 will provide the government with a framework to achieve the legally-binding carbon budgets and sectoral emissions reduction ceilings agreed in July.

This included a 25% cut in emissions from the agriculture sector.

Agriculture accounted for a third of Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2021, which was down slightly on the 2020 figure.

However, the plan said that this was not due to fewer emissions from the sector but an overall increase in emissions from other sectors of the economy.

Emissions from the agriculture sector have grown 19% over the last decade.

2023 measures

Climate Action Plan 2023 outlines 15 specific measures for the agriculture sector which are earmarked for delivery or implementation next year.

This includes the rolling out the recommendations of the Food Vision dairy and beef groups.

The plan aims to support land use diversification options for farmers, including anaerobic digestion (AD), forestry and tillage, as a way to incentivise the voluntary reduction of livestock numbers.

It also includes measures focused on reducing the use of nitrogen (N), improving animal breeding and developing a feed additive to reduce emissions.

The government has committed to delivering a national biomethane strategy within six months and will seek funding to develop a biomethane industry.

The full list of proposed actions for 2023 are as follows:

  • Introduce a national fertiliser database;
  • Increase the adoption of protected urea;
  • Continue to fund Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) to contribute to nitrogen reductions;
  • Provide support for the Protein Aid Scheme to support the production of legumes, which play an important role in fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, resulting in reduced chemical nitrogen fertiliser usage;
  • Provide data and analysis to farmers on the benefits of improved animal feeding through knowledge transfer;
  • Promote improved animal breeding through focusing on low methane traits;
  • Improved animal feeding – continue to work with all stakeholders to develop a slow release bolus pasture-based feed additive;
  • Develop a methane-reducing slurry additive;
  • Provide financial support to farmers who convert to organic farming;
  • Mobilise recommendations of the Food Vision sectoral groupings and support land use diversification options for livestock farmers, such as anaerobic digestion, forestry and tillage, to incentivise voluntary livestock reductions;
  • Start-up of the Teagasc biomethane anaerobic digestion pilot plant in Grange;
  • Continue support for European Innovation Partnership (EIP) pilot project – small biogas;
  • Demonstration programme and dissemination of learnings;
  • Deliver a national biomethane strategy within six months;
  • Seek financial opportunities for capital support for the development of a biomethane industry in Ireland;
  • Identify and address the research and knowledge gaps around the supply of feedstocks, the role of digestate and the sequestration potential regarding biomethane production.

The Climate Action Plan 2023 also sets out a roadmap of further measures for the sector up to 2025.

However, further detail on funding which will be crucial to deliver the proposed measures has yet to be revealed.

It is intended that an annex to plan, outlining more detail on the actions, will be published early in 2023.