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Can Agriculture meet the 2030 reduction and carbon budget targets?

  • As set out in the Climate Act the agriculture sector has been set a target to reduce GHG emissions by 25% (5.75 Mt CO2eq) by 2030 or 17.25 Mt CO2eq relative to 2018 levels.
  • To achieve the emission reduction targets, the agriculture sector requires a combination of high levels of measure adoption, limiting animal number increases and development of new science.
  • For the most likely animal numbers scenario in 2030 (Scenario 1) a very ambitious rate of measure adoption (Pathway 2) achieves the 2030 emission reduction and comes in under the carbon budget.
  • The lower animal numbers scenario (Scenario 2) combined with the higher adoption rates (Pathway 2) would come in under target by 850 ktCO2eq yr1 by 2030.
  • Scenario 3 does not meet the 2030 25% reduction target or the carbon budget targets for either pathway.
  • The quicker measures are taken up, the more cumulative mitigation can occur over the entire 2021 to 2030 commitment period. For example, Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) mitigates at most 87 ktCO2eq yr1, but as mitigation is front loaded, the cumulative abatement is 772 ktCO2eq over the entire 2021-2030 period. In contrast, manure acidification/amendments could mitigate 245 ktCO2eq yr1 (almost three times that of LESS). However, because adoption is back-loaded, cumulative mitigation over the 2021-2030 period is only marginally higher at 985 ktCO2eq.
  • The two pathways representing the upper and lower limits of GHG abatement and uptake rates of individual measures are not mutually exclusive to a given adoption pathway. In other words, adoption rates from both Pathways can be ‘mixed and matched’ in any combination that will achieve the targets.

The lower animal numbers scenario (Scenario 2) combined with the higher adoption levels (Pathway 2) would come in under target by 850 ktCO2eq yr1 by 2030.

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry?

The LULUCF sector faces a range of challenges. Under Business as Usual, LULUCF emissions are projected to increase substantially to circa. 10.5 million tonnes CO2eq yr1 by 2030. This projected increase in land-use emissions is due to a) the age profile of Irish forestry, b) the relatively low afforestation rate over the last decade and c) emissions from peat soils (both peat grassland and managed peatland). It should be noted that there are considerable uncertainties in the LULUCF inventory in relation to the extent of some of the land use categories and the emissions factors associated with them. Research is underway to increase the accuracy of both land use data and the associated emissions, thereby reducing the uncertainty in this inventory, which may help the sector to meet its targets. This MACC uses the assumptions in the national inventory at the time of writing, but these are likely to change substantially as knowledge improves based on new science. For example, recently published research by Teagasc has found that the area of deep drained peat soil is less than 30% of the area currently used in the national LULUCF inventory. The incorporation of this new science into the national LULUCF inventory may reduce emissions by up to 60% from this source.