The Department of Agriculture is focusing strongly on reducing nitrous oxide emissions for the first half of agriculture’s carbon reduction budget, which will run until 2025, according to chief inspector Bill Callanan.

Callanan, who conceded that “methane [reduction] is a challenging one”, said that reducing fertiliser usage and changing the fertiliser type used by Irish farmers is something which the Department is looking at for the “early budgetary period”.

He said that the Department has to “aim towards” reducing nitrous oxide emissions in this way by “around two megatonnes” (two million tonnes) by 2025.


However, Callanan said: “It is crucial that we don’t replace nitrogen use by feed imported from abroad. We can’t have unintentional consequences.”

He said that Ireland should be able to continue to farm livestock through a grass-based, rain-fed system and that it should not move to “other EU systems” where animals are fed more concentrates, predominantly indoors.

Callanan was responding to questions from Sinn Féin TD Darren O’Rourke at the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action on Tuesday, as it continued to consider the carbon budgets which have been set for Ireland.

No absolute figures

Considering agriculture’s carbon reduction target of 22% to 30% by 2030, Deputy O’Rourke asked Callanan if the Department had set reduction targets for the first half of the carbon budget period, to end in 2025.

Callanan was unable to provide “absolute figures” for the first half of the carbon budget and instead directed to the Department’s focus on reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

Describing the proposals on nitrates, he said: “A national fertiliser register of compliance will be developed and reductions in chemical nitrogen allowances will help achieve our objectives, as will support, such as training and advisory services, to underpin this transition.”

He explained how such work will contribute to agriculture and the wider economy’s overall emissions reduction targets.


Callanan described the challenges involved in “trying to build a momentum” in agriculture around reducing carbon emissions.

He said that the Department deals with 135,000 farmers, which means “you have to move early” in communicating what needs to be done.

“It is very important for farmers to understand how we will achieve this ambition," he said.

“There's always going to be early adoption and some slower adoption by others when you're dealing with a broad population like that. We need to make sure everybody comes along with us, but it'll be at different levels.”

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