Climate plan: New technologies needed for agriculture to hit targets - officials

Substantial progress on methane emissions not expected to accelerate until second carbon budget

Methane emission reduction is seen as key to reducing the agriculture sector’s overall carbon footprint. Photograph: iStock

Methane emission reduction is seen as key to reducing the agriculture sector’s overall carbon footprint. Photograph: iStock

 

New technologies will be needed to ensure the agriculture sector hits its targets under the climate action plan, the Oireachtas committee on the environment will hear from officials on Tuesday.

Civil servants from the Department of Agriculture, alongside several other government departments, will appear before the committee as part of its consideration of carbon budgets mandated under the climate plan published last year.

Bill Callanan, the chief inspector with the Department of Agriculture, will indicate to the committee that substantial progress on methane emission reduction, seen as key to reducing the sector’s overall carbon footprint, is not expected to accelerate until the state’s second five-year carbon budget.

While he will tell the committee there will be a “significant focus” on reducing nitrous oxide emissions, mainly those associated with chemical nitrogen fertilsier, “reductions in methane are more challenging as the technological advances are currently not available in the marketplace”.

New technologies such as the development of feed additives to reduce emissions are “needed to complement existing technologies to bring the sector into the climate action plan 2021 target range of a reduction of 22-30 per cent for agriculture and long-lead in times are essential to allow for the scale up and deployment of commercial technologies,” he will say.

However, he will say that given international research focus on the area, “the commercialisation potential of this technological advancement and innovation is extremely promising”.

Officials from the Department of Transport will tell the committee that its sector, which accounts for around 18 per cent of emissions, has benefitted from a temporary suppressing effect due to Covid-19, but that further work is need to decarbonize the sector - including a combination of “significant behavioural change and technology adoption”.

However, revised transport approaches based on public transport, electrification and active travel can deliver “a higher quality of life and societal health benefits”, including quieter streets and more livable towns and cities, the committee will be told.

Brian Carroll, the assistant secretary general in the Department of the Environment Climate and Communications will say that the challenge of delivering on carbon budgets is “very significant and will require transformational change across all sectors of society and the economy”.

Climate minister Eamon Ryan is currently considering the carbon budgets to be set for each sector, in consultation with relevant departments, the public and the committee. Mr Carroll will say that a “relentless focus on delivery and intense policy evaluation” will be “essential” to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions necessary for compliance with the carbon budget.