It is “critical” that Ireland’s 6% of hedgerows are included in calculations when it comes to the country’s carbon sequestration figures.

This argument is set out in a government formation briefing document drawn up by independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice who is currently holding exploratory talks with various political parties in relation to the establishment of the next government.

The 14-page document – seen by AgriLand – proposes a significant number of measures “to be acted upon” across multiple sectors including: agriculture; health; housing; flooding; rural regeneration etc; plus it presents a defence of the country’s possible carbon sequestration capacity.

Fitzmaurice contends that “a full analysis” of how Ireland’s carbon sequestration capabilities are calculated is needed.

If we haven’t suitably qualified people to carry out this analysis within Ireland, then we need to contract them in from abroad to carry out the work.

“We need to properly evaluate the carbon sequestration value of grass; as well as the other crops growing in Ireland – as this information isn’t available at present.

“In my view, we are not calculating Ireland’s true carbon sequestration value properly; and it is for that reason that agriculture is taking an unfair portion of the blame for the country missing its climate change targets,” the document states.

The latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures indicate that total annual national emissions are 60.5 megaton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent; and the agriculture sector contributes 20.6 megaton of CO2 equivalent of this – in effect 34% of national emissions.

However, the country’s hedgerow and grassland sequestration potential is not included in the 34% calculation.

Also Read: ‘Hedgerows sequester 50% more carbon than forestry’ – Dr. Paddy Wall

Teagasc has previously described hedgerows as “important reservoirs” of biodiversity and “potentially valuable sinks” within the national agricultural carbon budget.

Hedgerows in Ireland are estimated to cover 276,460ha; extend for 689,000km and, with other semi-natural habitat, may cover up to 13% of the country’s farmland area.

Preliminary estimates – recently published by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) – suggest that hedgerows and non-forest woodlands sequester between 0.66 and 3.3 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year – providing a net removal of between 0.27 and 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Anaerobic Digestion

The TD frankly contends that there should be no cut to the national suckler herd.

Alternatively, the rural-based politician is urging all political parties to “roll out” initiatives to encourage anaerobic digestion and solar power.

“Individuals and communities could benefit from the energy they produce – either through own use or selling it into the grid.

“Bring in legislation outlining a ratio of 10:1 in relation to wind turbines, in other words 1m up, 10m out in relation to dwelling houses.”

Fitzmaurice is calling for further research into wave power and off-shore wind turbines; with a full analysis of the economic viability of wind turbines on land and out at sea.

The TD is also in favour of an aggressive retrofitting policy / deep insulation programme to save energy in homes across the country.