Land use is the sleeping giant of carbon targets, senior policy analyst with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Tadhg Buckley has said.

Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) covers emissions and removals from direct land use, including commercial uses, land use change and forestry.

"It covers emissions that come out of the soil, carbon that is sequestered in the soil, as well as what happens from a forestry perspective.

"It's different from the emissions from slurry and fertiliser that go out on soil, this is what's happening within the soil and underneath the surface," he said.

Currently, the LULUCF target has not been set out and has been deferred for 18 months to allow a land use analysis study to be completed.


"Farmers who put in solar or anaerobic digestion systems will not get any of the credit from an energy perspective," Buckley said.

"That is the framework we are working within from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], so there's a challenge around that in that we can't necessarily change the rules ourselves."

Buckley said that the reason the IFA sought a lower emissions target was due to the lack of wiggle room with these rules.

It's going to cost farmers a lot of money

"The reality is that a farmer could be growing grass to feed an anaerobic digestor, could be putting out fertiliser on grassland and obviously burning diesel in a tractor or a harvester.

"The fertiliser and the green diesel that's used to go grow grass to go into the anaerobic digestor would count towards agriculture emissions, with the energy that comes out of the anaerobic digestor credited towards the energy sector."

Buckley argued that this is "not a level playing field" to be operating in and it is something that needs to be addressed going forward.

Small players

In the overall climate argument, Buckley said that Ireland plays a very small part.

"It's a national approach to an international issue and it's going to cost farmers a lot of money. There was no mention of money last week when the target for agriculture was announced," he said.

Buckley emphasised the need for both funding from the Government and a clear roadmap to be set out for farmers to achieve the target of 25% less emissions by 2030.

"You can see a pathway to 22%, but the extra 3%, I cannot see," he said.