Ireland will need to look “very seriously” at the country’s cattle herd in the years to come, a climate change adviser has said.
Marie Donnelly, chairwoman of the Climate Change Advisory Council, said: “Our herd is very large – it’s more than our population of people. And it is going to be a challenge. It’s one that we’re going to have to look at very seriously.”
On Monday, the independent group, which advises the Government on its climate policy, outlined proposals to cut emissions by more than 50% by the end of the decade.
It signed off on two five-year carbon budget plans to achieve a 51% reduction by 2030.
The budgets are part of the long-term strategy to make Ireland carbon-neutral by 2050.
The plans are now set to be taken to Cabinet by Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan.
Minister @EamonRyan has welcomed the first carbon budgets from the Climate Change Advisory Council as a significant milestone in Ireland’s efforts to tackle climate change.— Dept. Environment, Climate and Communications (@Dept_ECC) October 25, 2021
Read more: https://t.co/QfoLSIacwA #ClimateActionIRL
The target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is lower in the first period – 4.8% per year – than in the second period – 8.3% per year.
Ms Donnelly said: “The action takes place now and the benefit will come through in the second budget.”
She told RTÉ radio: “It is the Government that decides the sector ceilings and that’s the process that will now deliver in the course of the next number of weeks and months. What we have looked at in terms of the modelling exercise is what is the stress possibility in each of the sectors?
“What is feasible? What is unfeasible?”
There has been considerable discussion about the reforms necessary in agriculture in the coming years.
“Analyse the emissions coming from the agricultural sector and there are three kinds of gases,” Ms Donnelly said.
“There’s carbon dioxide, the same as the rest of us – diesel and petrol in tractors. So that’s one area, clearly, that is the same for everybody in our society.
“The secondary is nitrous oxide, which is a very long-lived, warming gas. And that’s coming from our fertilizer and our slurry. And this is not a new message. We have an issue there. Our water quality is being impaired by the run-off, and this is something that has already been tackled in the agriculture sector.
“So it’s from a water purity perspective but also from an emissions perspective – we get a double benefit out of taking action in that space. Methane, of course, comes from cattle and from sheep. At the moment, our methane emissions are increasing, they’re going in the wrong direction.
“There are certain technology and feeding practices that can help on that. But we may have to deal with a very difficult issue of linking activity to activity levels in agriculture to methane emissions, and addressing that as a serious challenge.”