We cannot discount methane, says Eamon Ryan

We cannot discount methane, says Eamon Ryan

The Climate Change Advisory Council’s advice to the Government to treat methane differently from other greenhouse gases has been opposed by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

The Dublin Bay South TD said: “We cannot do what the Climate Change Advisory Council seems to be suggesting, which is to discount methane.”

He said a recent letter from the climate council raised doubt as to how methane (the vast majority of which comes from ruminant livestock, in Ireland) is going to be counted, and raised the potential argument that the agriculture sector may not have to make as significant an effort if, for a range of complex reasons, methane is treated differently as a greenhouse gas.

The council is an independent advisory body to assess and advise on Ireland transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.

Mr Ryan said it is highly complex as to how exactly different greenhouse gases are treated, in the rule book of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But given the advice from IPCC scientists and our own scientists such as Peter Thorne, we cannot discount methane, said the Green Party leader.

He was speaking during the pre-Christmas Dáil debate on climate action and low carbon development, where Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton confirmed he has read the methane advice of the climate council.

He said:

We have not adopted a position on that, and the long-term strategy is out for consultation, and will have to evolve.

He added: “On the issue of biogenic methane, I detected a shift in the attitude of scientists towards land use. There seemed to be a greater emphasis on the need to speed up what we do in conventional energy areas, and land use seems to be greatly influenced by whether we can reduce climate temperatures.

“Land use as a carbon store is very much influenced by global warming. There is a balance to be struck in food production and food security, and how that is to be worked through.”

He told the committee the Environmental Protection Agency calculates the emissions from agriculture that arise from methane, nitrogen, oxides, urea and so on, and Teagasc has done an estimate of how we can start to reduce those emissions.

“As I understand it, in our inventories, we do not have an accurate assessment of how land use is sequestering or releasing carbon. The manner in which carbon is released depends on how land is ploughed, and on how a lot of things are done. We do not do a detailed inventory. We do not track every acre of land to see what happened this year compared with last year. We do not track how carbon is emitted depending on the way harvesting is done in a given year.

“We do not count every tree and estimate the carbon sequestration that it might give. We do not track the loss of carbon from the draining of bogs.

On forestry, the minister said: “As I understand it, a credit of 26.8m tonnes of carbon was granted to Ireland in reference to our historic planting levels. Part of that has to be earned over the next ten years.

“We will have to show that changes are being made and that we are delivering the credit. We will have to make enough changes to justify the assignment of the credit to us.”

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