GHG cloud hangs over Irish farming

Alan Matthews

Ireland stands out as the EU country facing by far the biggest challenge in reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, warned EU agricultural policy expert Alan Matthews, ahead of this weekend’s European heads of state meeting to decide the EU’s new climate and energy policy framework.

In his latest contribution to the blog, he has compiled an agricultural emissions ‘pain index’ for each country in meeting its 2030 requirement.

The EU28 average pain index is 22.9, but Ireland’s 60.6 makes it clear that we are a special case, because we have the largest share for agriculture of our total emissions; and the highest contribution of enteric fermentation to our agricultural emissions of any EU country.

Denmark and France are given pain indices respectively of 46.7 and 40.2, the next highest is Sweden’s 29.6.

Other member states may have baulked at a proposed special concession to Ireland, says Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy at Trinity College.

The European Council in September agreed that countries with exceptionally high emissions in the agriculture sector should be allowed to offset these emissions with the reductions from afforestation.

However, this commitment was removed in the latest Council conclusions which, says Matthews, instead invite the European Commission to examine how best to encourage sustainable intensification of food production, while optimising greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration.

“Whether agriculture requires special treatment in elaborating the EU’s GHG reduction targets for 2030 and, if so, how best to achieve this, remains an open question.

“Thus, it will remain unclear for some time just exactly how agriculture will be treated under EU climate change targets for 2030,” says Matthews.

“However, an important first step will be taken if the European Council succeeds in agreeing 2030 emission reduction targets at its meeting later this week.”

At the meeting, heads of state will bid to agree target GHG reductions for 2030 so that the EU can submit its contribution for the conclusion of a global climate agreement



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