Irish farming would achieve carbon-neutral status if permanent pasture and hedgerows received credit for the sequestration, IFA president Joe Healy has said.
“If you take even the renewable energy from farmland there’s 3.4m tonnes that can be offset there against it but the energy sector gets credited for that. We don’t get credit for our permanent pasture, our hedgerows. If we got credits for all of those, we would be carbon-neutral,” Healy said. “There are 185,000ha of unenclosed land that we need the Government to open up. That can be planted all over the country.”
Healy was speaking on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk on Tuesday morning. Catherine Devitt from Stop Climate Chaos Coalition was also speaking.
She said that she is from a farming background, has siblings who are farming and understands the financial pressures farmers are facing.
However, she said Ireland needs to have wider conversations about policy choices we are making today and how they affect our emissions goals.
“Our 2050 goal is to achieve 80% of our emissions cuts. For agriculture it is carbon neutrality,” she said. “That means we need to sequester carbon through forestry, peatlands soil and so on. Our planting rates on forestry are far behind.”
Devitt said that the problem with agriculture is that emissions from the sector are expected to rise.
“Ireland is not on any kind of a pathway to achieve its 2030 objectives… Are we losing focus of the bigger picture here? We recognise that farmers are already doing a lot on this issue. Farmers are already taking a lead on this. We need to ask ourselves the policy choices we make over the next couple of years.”
Farmers can potentially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% or more according to Healy, citing IFA’s smart farming programme as a win-win example, financially and environmentally.
“Since 1990 Irish farmers have increased agricultural output by 40% but we are still at same level of GHG emissions,” he said.