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Marginal Abatement Cost Curve 2023

The new Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) to assist farmers and the Agriculture industry to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions, was launched on Wednesday, 12 July by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, in Teagasc Ashtown, Dublin.

Download the MACC 2023 here

Watch the recording of the launch below

Executive Summary

Download the MACC 2023 Executive Summary as a pdf here

Key Messages

  • The Agriculture sectoral target of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 was not achieved with Pathway 1 for any of the three agricultural activity scenarios investigated. This highlights the importance of maximising the adoption rate of GHG mitigation measures.
  • In Scenario 1, sectoral targets can be achieved by the high adoption rates of GHG mitigation measures as outlined in Pathway 2. New science in the future may expand the set of mitigation measures available to farmers.
  • In Scenario 2, sectoral targets can be met through combining high adoption rates in Pathway 2 for age of finishing, feed additives, diversification, fertiliser use and type, with the lower adoption rates in Pathway 1 of other measures.
  • Diversification into organic farming, increased tillage and forestry or biomethane feedstock production has the potential to aid in herd stabilisation and thereby contributing to meeting the agricultural emissions targets.
  • Reductions in Land Use, Land Use Change & Forestry emissions above 13% (the EU LULUCF target) could not be achieved due to the large uncertainties in inventory emission factors. Improvements in the inventory (i.e. refinement of emission/land-use factors and land management data, particularly for peat soils) emission factors could change the estimates quite significantly.
  • Bioenergy production based on biomethane and woody biomass can contribute significantly to the wider decarbonisation of the Irish energy sector.
  • Increased advisory and extension services will be key to helping guide farmers and land-owners on the path to reduced GHG emissions by 2030 and towards climate neutrality.
  • Continuing research and development of emission mitigation technologies and inventory adjustments remains a priority to expand and/or enhance the set of mitigation measures available to farmers.

What’s a scenario?

A projection of how animal numbers will evolve to 2030.

Scenario 1: most likely, base case

Scenario 2: lower than base case

Scenario 3: higher than base case

What’s a Pathway?

A set of assumed adoption rates for each mitigation measure

Pathway 1: Adoption rates similar to the last MACC

Pathway 2: Higher adoption rates

What is a MACC?

A Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) is a graph that visualises the abatement potential of GHG mitigation measures, and the relative costs associated with each of these measures. The MACC helps stakeholders make informed decisions about how to allocate resources for emissions reductions. It provides insights into the cost-effectiveness of different abatement options and helps identify the least costly ways to achieve a given emissions reduction target.

Ireland has committed to reducing overall GHG emissions by 51% from 2021 to 2030.

The Teagasc MACC

The Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) identifies the most cost-effective pathway to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in the Agricultural, Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sectors plus (Bio) energy. This is the third iteration of the Teagasc GHG MACC; previous iterations were published in 2012 and 2018. In the current version of the MACC the FAPRI Ireland was used to model three potential agricultural activity scenarios on how animal numbers will evolve in 2030; Scenario 1 (S1) is the most likely base case, while Scenario 2 (S2) and Scenario 3 (S3) project lower and higher numbers respectively. Additionally, two assumed adoption rates for each mitigation measure were assumed; Pathway 1 (P1) had an adoption rate similar to the last MACC, while Pathway 2 (P2) assumed a higher adoption rate that represented the maximum technically feasible.

Why is a new Teagasc MACC needed?

It is important to note that a MACC cannot be static or definitive. The potential for GHG abatement, as well as the associated costs/ benefits will change over time as on-going research programmes deliver new mitigation measures, or as socio-economic conditions evolve. New agriculture GHG mitigation measures have been added to the current MACC. Additionally the Russian-Ukrainian War has added considerable volatility in terms of energy and commodity prices.

Agricultural Activity Scenarios and Adoption Levels

ACTIVITY LEVELS: Total activity data associated with Irish agriculture (dairy and other cattle, sheep, pig and poultry populations, tillage production and fertiliser use) were modelled using the Teagasc FAPRI-Ireland economic model. Three potential agricultural activity scenarios have been examined and two potential adoption pathways.

SCENARIO 1 (S1): Most likely base case scenario predicts growth (8% relative to 2022) in dairy cow numbers and reductions (-29%) in suckler cow numbers over the period to 2030. The 2030 GHG emissions are estimated to be 21.9 MtCO2eq. This forms the central “Business-as-Usual” scenario and MACC mitigation figures within the report have been calculated using this scenario.

SCENARIO 2 (S2): Assumes lower growth in dairy cow numbers than Scenario S1 (4% relative to 2022) and a higher reduction (-43%) in suckler cow numbers. The 2030 GHG emissions are estimated to be 21.1 MtCO2eq.

SCENARIO 3 (S3): Assumes a stronger growth in the dairy sector than in Scenario S1 (12% relative to 2022) and weaker reductions (-16%) in suckler cow numbers. The 2030 GHG emissions are estimated to be 22.8 MtCO2eq.

PATHWAY 1 (P1): Assumes adoption rates similar to the previous MACC.

PATHWAY 2 (P2): Assumes more ambitious adoption rates of measures. It represents the maximum technically feasible adoption rate.

RATES OF ADOPTION: Variable speeds of adoption across the individual MACC measures have also been included to reflect differing levels of technology readiness.

Table 1. Animal numbers in 2022 and projected animal numbers plus mineral N fertilizer and associated greenhouse gas emissions projections (FAPRI) for the three scenarios in 2030 with no greenhouse gas mitigation.

2030 Projected activity data and emissions

'000 head
Scenario 1
'000 head
Scenario 2
'000 head
Scenario 3
'000 head
Total Cattle 7,132 6,785  6,541  7,015 
Dairy cows 1,568 1,692  1,627  1,756 
Suckler cows 887 632  504  748 
Total sheep 5,223 4,656  4,664  4,649 
Total pigs 1,676 1,629  1,629  1,630 
Total poultry 19,765 20,911  20,912  20,910 
Total mineral N fertiliser tonnes 343,200 399,156  369,806  420,989 
Total GHG emissions Mt CO2eq   21.9  21.1  22.8 

Animal inventories align with the activity level used in the EPA Agriculture GHG inventory. See Ireland’s Informative Inventory Report 2023 (EPA, 2023)


Changes in international, EU and Irish climate change policy

Key measures: what should farmers and policy makers focus on first?

Can Agriculture meet the 2030 reduction and carbon budget targets?

How much mitigation can be achieved?