Teagasc is currently conducting a scoping study for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the establishment of an ‘Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre of Excellence’, AgriLand understands.

A series of stakeholder workshops with those in agricultural academia, policy and industry are taking place, to consult on the main areas of research required and how a research centre of excellence can contribute to addressing these gaps.

‘Innovative research directed at farmers and the sector to reduce GHG emissions’

In December 2020, Minister Charlie McConalogue said that his department and Teagasc “continue to work closely to drive and implement national and international strategic priorities related to climate action in the agri-food sector”.

He said that this is exemplified by the department-funded, Teagasc-led project to investigate the establishment of a dedicated agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) research centre.

“Coupled to the engagement with international partners on this project to provide a basis for best practice of a proposed centre, is the focus on the specific climate challenges in Ireland that will enhance research, advisory and farmer co-ordination to deliver a sustainable climate-friendly agri-food system,” the minister said.

“The provision of core funding to Teagasc enables the climate and agri-environmental research base of Teagasc [to] deliver its main research programme in this area and, subsequently, to connect this research with farmers and the wider agri-food sector through the farm advisory service and its strong emphasis on knowledge transfer and education.

“Engagement by Teagasc with my department’s competitive research programmes is significant and has helped support innovative research directed at farmers and the sector to reduce GHG emissions and improve carbon storage.”

Agriculture responsible for 35% of Ireland’s GHG

Agriculture is the largest sectoral contributor to climate emissions due to the significant role that the sector plays in the Irish economy, the nature of biological emissions and the lack of heavy industry as part of the Irish economy.

According to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture was responsible for 35.3% of Ireland’s GHG emissions in 2019.

GHG from agriculture decreased 3.9% in 2019, but emissions were still up 8.7% on 2014.

The most significant drivers for the decreased emissions in 2019 were decreased fertiliser use (-10.1%) and liming (-25.4%).

This followed substantial increases in both fertiliser and lime use in 2018. Agricultural emissions in 2018 were the highest in the 30-year time series.

Ireland’s overall GHG emissions are estimated to have fallen by 6% overall in 2020, due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, according to a report by the EPA and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

However, agriculture emissions are expected to have risen slightly as a result of increased fuel and fertiliser use, the analysis says.

National climate and air roadmap for agriculture sector

In December 2020, the Department of Agriculture launched Ag Climatise, a national climate and air roadmap for the agriculture sector. The roadmap sets an ambitious vision for a climate neutral agriculture sector by 2050.

It includes 29 actions with specific and challenging targets aimed at reducing the environmental footprint and further building on the strong credentials of Irish agriculture.

The actions in the roadmap are primarily based on the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACC) regarding GHG and ammonia emissions.