Farmers must be given credit for the sequestering of carbon

October 23rd, 2020 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Oblivious to the issues surrounding climate change, a Belgian Blue beef calf suckles on its mother on the Innishannon farm of Paul Hurley on a sunny, but windy day in West Cork earlier this week. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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REACTING to the publication last week of the government’s Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, IFA president Tim Cullinan said that, while meeting the targets will be a challenge, farmers are ready to play their part.

‘Farmers are already doing a lot and the sector has a roadmap set out as part of the Teagasc MAC Curve. With the right supports and incentives, farmers can continue to play our part in the national effort by improving the carbon efficiency of our output,’ he said.

‘However, one of the real frustrations for farmers is that they are getting no credit for the carbon they are sequestering on their farms. We need to look at the net carbon position on farms that takes into account carbon offset as well as carbon emitted,’ he said.

Mr Cullinan instanced a report published recently in New Zealand as evidence of what is being measured in a country with a similar demographic and farming profile to Ireland. The report shows that NZ farms are offsetting substantial amounts of the carbon they are producing.

He said: ‘This demonstrates what farmers in Ireland can do, if they are supported to adopt enhanced emission-efficiency measures and are credited for the carbon they are already sequestering in hedgerows.

Tim Cullinan also welcomed the acknowledgement in the Bill of the cyclical nature of methane in GHG emissions accounting methodology, but expressed his added frustration that the system can’t be changed until 2030: ‘This makes no sense,’ he declared.

Macra welcome

Meanwhile, Thomas Duffy, the national president of Macra na Feirme, welcomed that the Bill included the specific lines about considering ‘the special economic and social role of agriculture’ and ‘the risk of substantial and unreasonable carbon leakage.’

He said: ‘Ambitious targets are needed for us to address climate action and protect our farmers from the effects of increased drought and flooding as a result of climate change, but the role of agriculture in this is different to energy or industry.

‘It would be very easy for political calls to reduce agricultural emissions here by simply outsourcing them to other countries with lower environmental sustainability like Brazil. This has happened in manufacturing, the recognition of the risk of this to food production is vital, we will hold the government to account if the promise to prevent this is weakened,’ he continued.

Biogenic methane

The Bill also outlines that government plans to recognise ‘the characteristics of biogenic methane’ in reference to the Special Report on Global Warming by the IPCC October 2018: ‘How to treat methane in inventories is a vital element of agricultural climate action, it is good to see the government recognising the best science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,’ added Mr Duffy.

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