The Carbon Removals Action Group (CRAG) is to consider the government’s carbon credit trading system before deciding on legal action.

Nadaline Webster, co-founder of the group, told a meeting in Co. Kerry on Thursday night (November 17) that any legal proceedings would be funded by its membership.

CRAG wants the government to allow farmers and forestry owners to access the benefit of carbon removals from their holdings.

Ireland has committed to achieve net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, and to a 51% reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.

The government has said that by 2030 the Irish agriculture sector must slash emissions by 25%.

Dr. Laurence Shalloo, head of the Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation programme in Teagasc, told the meeting at The Rose Hotel in Tralee that climate neutrality will not be reached without carbon removals.

“Soils are the biggest asset we have,” he said.

Teagasc is currently carrying out research across the country to determine the carbon sequestration potential in Irish soils.


Nadaline Webster said that CRAG is engaging with the science on emissions as it evolves, along with the organisation’s legal advisors.

“It is very clear that the country needs the ability to utilise our land and our labour in order to achieve climate neutrality. At the same time, the government really doesn’t want to give us the rights for that.

“We are at a point now where it is very clear, to us at least, is that the only way to resolve that issue will be legal action arising from the carbon trading system being finalised in this country by the end of 2023.

“You can say that carbon budgets disproportionately burden farmers, and they do, and the sectoral emissions ceilings disproportionately burden farmers, and they do. But until an individual farmer is disproportionately burdened, you don’t have standing to bring a case.

“Rights have to be infringed to justify an action. So the first time you will know to what extent those rights have been infringed is when the government realise its carbon trading system,” Webster told the meeting.

It is expected that the European Commission will present a framework on counting carbon removals before the end of November. This can then be adapted into Irish legislation.

This initiative will propose EU rules on certifying carbon removals and will develop the necessary criteria to monitor, report and verify the authenticity of these removals.

AIFC grant schemes forestry incentives FII

“The government has no intention of recognising [carbon] removals by an individual farm. The ownership of those removals, they have decided that there are no inherent private property rights in relation to removals at all.

“But they have reassuringly told us that they are going to allow us to engage in voluntary markets, which I find hilarious because you can now voluntarily sell something you don’t own, which is a legal minefield all of its own.

“How can we engage in voluntary markets if the removals aren’t ours?” she asked.

CRAG and Dr. Shalloo both favour the adoption of the GWP* metric, developed by climate change researcher at University of Oxford, Prof. Myles Allen, to count methane beyond 2030.

They feel that this will better account for the different physical behaviours of short and long-lived greenhouse gases (GHG) such as methane.

The meeting heard that emissions are currently significantly over-estimated in the agriculture sector.

“The science is supporting agriculture, the policy and the law are really not.

“We’re making laws ahead of the science and I think that poses a significant challenge for the industry,” Webster said.

“We have to keep the pressure up that the correct metrics are adopted in 2030, because if they are not we are forever carbon criminals,” John Hourigan, CRAG co-founder, added.