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TEAGASC CLIMATE ACTION STRATEGY (2022-2030)

Prof Frank O’Mara - Director of Teagasc

Global temperatures have increased by more than 1°C since pre-industrial times.

Scientists warn that without increases in both ambition and action, warming will exceed 2°C by the end of the century, possibly by a considerable margin.

These changes have the potential to have a devastating impact on the world’s environment and food security.

Urgent action is needed in all countries and sectors including agriculture to reduce emissions, increase carbon removals/sequestration and prepare to adapt to the changing climate. The world also faces food and nutrition, energy, and biodiversity crises, and our actions must deal with all the challenges in a co-ordinated manner. Agriculture must therefore maintain/increase food production, reduce emissions, increase sequestration, improve biodiversity and contribute to energy security, whilst also ensuring economic and social sustainability. This Climate Action Strategy focuses on climate, but the actions will contribute to sustainability on a much wider level.

Earlier this year the Irish Government set a target of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (5.75 Mt CO2e) for the agriculture sector. As part of its Climate Action Strategy, Teagasc has set out a road map on how this can be achieved without impacting on the competitiveness of the agri-food sector.

To achieve this, Teagasc is significantly increasing its resources devoted to climate related research and knowledge transfer. The three key pillars of the new Climate Action Strategy are:

  1. A Signpost Advisory Programme,
  2. A Sustainability Digital Platform and
  3. A virtual National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation.

Each of the pillars are interconnected (as shown below in figure 1 and are fully aligned with all other Teagasc programmes and activities set out in our current Statement of Strategy. The new advisory programme will deliver accelerated action on farm, anchored by solid consistent data generated on the central digital platform. Both of these pillars will be guided and enhanced by the ongoing and emerging work programme co-ordinated through the new virtual research centre.

The new Signpost Advisory Programme will be accessible to all farmers to support accelerated climate action on farm. It will inform farmers around their current levels of emissions and sequestration, and support them in planning and implementing improvements, as well as tracking progress. A team of 30 advisors will commence the programme in 2023 and Teagasc plan to increase this significantly in subsequent years as well as supplementing the in-house team with outsourced resources.

The Sustainability Digital Platform is a major digital resource to be developed over the next number of years. Over time, it will become a central connected system for farmers and advisors involved in all aspects of farm sustainability assessment and planning. The immediate focus will be to enable farmers understand the carbon emissions and sequestration profile of their individual enterprises and farm. Users will also have access to decision support tools to develop tailored sustainability plans and track subsequent progress. The platform is initially being developed in collaboration with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Bord Bia, and with the support of the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM).  It will maximise the use of centralised data sources and provide consistency in the calculations provided for all users. The platform will underpin the delivery of the Signpost Advisory Programme and will help each farm to ‘know their number’ and plan accordingly.

The virtual National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation will accelerate the development of new technologies by co-ordinating and accelerating research and innovation programmes across Teagasc as well with other institutes both in Ireland and internationally.  Twenty four new scientific staff will be added to the centre in the current phase of recruitment, and additional staff, facilities and equipment are planned.

The changes that will happen on farms over the next decade constitute a major transformation of the Irish agri-food production system. Supporting farmers in this transformation will require a whole of industry effort across the Agricultural Knowledge Innovation System (AKIS). Teagasc is committed to playing its role alongside farmers, industry and government. The overall aim of the Teagasc Climate Action Strategy is to empower farm families to accelerate their adoption of new technologies and production systems that will allow agriculture to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 while maintaining farm profitability.