Dáil Éireann - Volume 665 - 30 October, 2008
Written Answers. - Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
Deputy Richard Bruton Deputy Richard Bruton
Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the agricultural sector to reduce, as required, its emissions of CO 2 . [37381/08]
Deputy Brendan Smith Deputy Brendan Smith
Deputy Brendan Smith: The agricultural sector is already contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. The Kyoto Protocol allowed for an increase in Ireland’s emissions of 13% over 1990 levels by 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of September 2008 projects that emissions from the agriculture sector in the period up to 2012 will fall to 18.95 million tonnes or 4.3% below 1990 levels. The EPA’s most recent figures on actual emission levels indicate that emissions from agriculture decreased by 3.8% in 2007 on the previous year’s figures continuing the downward trend since 1998.
The continued implementation of the Nitrates Regulations is having and will continue to have an impact, as it results in better use of nutrients with consequently less nitrogen applications and therefore less nitrous oxide emissions. Measures under the Rural Environment Protection Scheme are also expected to contribute to greenhouse gas abatement. These measures encourage the use of minimum tillage, the use of clover swards and the adoption of low emission trailing shoe technology for slurry spreading. In terms of reduced fertiliser use and consequent emissions, organic farming will also have a role to play and is supported through my Department’s Organic Farming Scheme.
The forestry sector is very important in addressing climate change, as it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is also a valuable source of renewable energy, thereby displacing emissions from fossil fuels. My Department continues to promote planting under the Afforestation Grant Scheme. I believe that the contribution of forestry has to be recognised in the EU’s Climate Change package.
Energy crops can play a role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. To encourage cultivation, my Department introduced a National Energy Crop Premium of €80 per hectare in 2007 to supplement the EU Premium of €45 per hectare. A new Bioenergy Scheme was also launched offering establishment grants worth €1,450 per hectare to plant willow and miscanthus. Land planted with energy crops can also benefit under the Single Payment Scheme as well as REPS and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
My Department continues to examine various abatement options in close liaison with Teagasc. There has been a significant commitment of €15.5 million to climate change research projects since 2005 under the Research Stimulus Fund operated by my Department. This includes research into areas such as more efficient slurry application, increased use of clover, which would reduce nitrogen usage, non-inversion tillage and increasing length of grazing season.
 However the European Commission’s target of a 20% reduction on 2005 levels by 2020 poses very significant difficulties for the Irish agriculture sector. If the target were to be applied pro rata to agriculture it could not be achieved without considerable downward pressure on animal numbers, particularly in the suckler herd. At a time when world-wide demand for beef is growing, and alternative supplies come from regions where farming practices are much less sustainable in terms of climate change emissions and the environment generally, I do not believe that such an approach would be consistent with the fundamental objectives of global climate change strategy. I have made my views known at a recent meeting of the EU Agriculture Council.
Dáil Éireann 665 Written Answers. Greenhouse Gas Emissions.