The Climate Change Advisory Council issued their eagerly awaited carbon budget proposals earlier this week.
The Advisory Council chaired by Marie Donnelly is mandated under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act to publish a series of 5-year carbon budgets.
Essentially these budgets are ceilings, in effect, capping the amount of carbon emissions the State can emit in line with the Government’s legally binding commitment to reduce emissions by 51% by 2030.
The Advisory Council has recommended the backloading of effort to the second half of the decade by proposing annual reductions of -4.8% for the period 2021-25 and -8.3% annually from 2026-30. A third provisional budget for the period 2030-35 was published as well, recognising the direction of travel towards net zero / carbon neutrality by 2050.
The rationale behind this approach is to allow for the development of new technologies and greater uptake of mitigation measures later in the decade.
The challenge is monumental for agriculture and indeed the entire economy. In recent days, the EPA published their provisional figures for GHG emissions in 2020. Overall, the State reduced GHG emissions in 2020 by -3.6%. However, the decrease was largely achieved by the short-term effect of COVID-19 restrictions on the economy and particularly transport emissions.
In relation to agriculture, GHG emissions now equate for 37.1% of total emissions with GHG emissions for the sector increasing by 1.4% in 2020.
The Advisory Council’s submission is step one out of two. Once the carbon budget programme has been adopted by the Government and the Oireachtas, Minister Eamon Ryan will prepare individual emissions ceilings for each sector of the economy in consultation with other relevant Ministers.
The sectoral target for agriculture is expected to be in the range of -21% to -30%, which is beyond what current research delivers in terms of efficiency or productivity measures.
In this context, it is essential that the agriculture and food sector is provided the time and opportunity to address the climate challenge, so as to avoid the devastating economic projections outlined by the CCAC in their technical report and by others such as KPMG and EY.
If provided time and opportunity, the sector can and will respond by aggressively pursuing mitigation measures outlined in the Teagasc MACC curve and ultimately ICOS fully believes the sector can demonstrate its potential to be climate neutral by 2050.
Eamonn Farrell – Agri Food Policy Executive
22 Feb 2024