Environment Reports

Environment & Rural Affairs Council Report December 2020

Activity since last National Council

  • The draft text of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill was published on the 7th October 2020. An IFA briefing note on the Bill is enclosed, but the key elements include: 
    • Establishes a legally binding carbon neutral target by 2050. 
    • Annually revised Climate Action Plan. 
    • Strengthens the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council including proposing carbon budgets commencing 1st January 2021, every 5 years. 
    • Local Authorities are required to prepare individual Climate Action Plans. 
    • National Long-Term Climate Action Strategy to be prepared at least every decade. 
    • Gives stronger oversight and accountability to the Oireachtas through a new Climate Action Committee.
  • The EU Methane Strategy to reduce emissions was published. A primary objective of the strategy is to establish an independent international methane emissions observatory to improve the accuracy and reporting methodologies for methane emissions to better inform mitigation measures. Some of the proposed actions in the Agricultural sector include: 
    • The Commission to set up a focus/expert group in 2021, in cooperation with sectoral experts and Member States, on improving reporting of emissions. 
    • Develop digital carbon navigator template and guidelines on common pathways for calculating GHGs at farm level by 2022. 
    • Develop an inventory of best practices and available technologies in order to promote a wider uptake of innovative mitigating actions with a special focus on enteric fermentation*. 
    • Promote the uptake of mitigation technologies such as anaerobic digestion, feed and breeding changes (special focus on small-scale technologies and collective business models) through a wider deployment of “carbon schemes” in their CAP Strategic Plans from 2021.
  • To address the level of queries on Nitrates, the IFA is hosting an online farmer meeting on Thursday, 3rd December at 11.30 with speakers from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Teagasc confirmed. The objective is to provide farmers with an opportunity to ask questions and get greater clarity on suite of new measures to be introduced on 1st January 2021. These include:
    • Prevent direct run-off from farm roadways to waters (i.e. watercourses and dry drains).
    • Prevent cattle access to watercourses for farms at a grassland stocking rate of 170kg/N/ha or above
    • Water troughs to be located at least 20m away from watercourses for farms at a grassland stocking rate of 170 kg N ha or above. 
    • Liming for farms at a grassland stocking rate of 170 kg N ha or above.
    • Reducing crude protein in concentrates for farms at a grassland stocking rate of 170 kg N ha or above.
    • The use of low emission slurry spreading (LESS) technology farms at a grassland stocking rate of 170 kg N ha or above. The requirement to LESS for these farmers will be introduced from 15thApril 2021. 
    • Increase in the annual excretion rate for the dairy cow from 85 kg/N to 89 kg/N. 
  • IFA met with the Department Agriculture, Food and Marine to discuss the upcoming review of the Nitrate derogation (see here for more details). At the meeting the Department advised that the upcoming review is going to be challenging and emphasised the following reasons: 
    • The recently published EPA Water Quality in Ireland 2013-2018 report;
    • Increased EU and National targets on climate change; and 
    • EU Green Deal (Farm to Fork & Biodiversity strategy).
  • IFA wrote to Minister Darragh O’Brien to seek a meeting to discuss the review of the Nitrates Derogation and the General Scheme of Water Environment (Abstraction) Bill.
    • To determine how the lag time between implementation of improved management practices and impact on water quality will be accounted for in the upcoming presentation to the European Commission, Nitrates Committee. 
    • The lack of a provision under Head 17 – Compensation to require Irish Water to publish a national package that sets out arrangements to support Irish Water and landowners to efficiently and fairly proceed through the process.
  • IFA made submission to the Draft Code of Best Practice and Guide for National Greenway Projects published by Transport Industry Ireland (TII). A meeting is pending between TII and IFA’s to discuss submission. 
  • An Bord Pleanála (ABP) approved the South Kerry Greenway subject to certain conditions being met. An initial internal IFA meeting took place with key representatives to review and consider ABP decision, a future meeting is planned. 
  • IFA met with representatives from Irish Water to get an update on the Water Supply Project (WSP) – Eastern and Midland Regions. IFA requested additional information on the project, which is forthcoming. 
  • IFA have attended several meetings of the Water Forum, which have focussed on the addressing water quality conditions as it relates to agriculture. There were discussions of the research report ‘Optimising Water Quality Returns from the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy’ by Charles Larkin which was commissioned by the Forum.
  • The EPA published its Provisional Greenhouse Gas Emission report for 2019. It showed a 4.5% decrease in emissions nationally. 
    • The Agriculture emissions decreased by 3.9% in 2019 (0.86 Mt CO2eq). 
    • The main reasons are reductions of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use of 10.1% and in liming of soils by 25.4%. 
Chart 1. Agricultures GHG per source in 2019
Chart 2. Agriculture Emissions and Projections 1990-2030
  • IFA have been in contact with ESB, Irish Water and TII representing farmers in relation to a number of infrastructural projects. 
  • IFA have had regular meetings with EPA on the Smart Farming programme, with a focus on updating the guidance for grassland management and energy. 

Any EU/COPA developments

  • IFA met with representatives from DG Energy to discuss the EU Methane Strategy and particularly improving the collection and accuracy of the accounting of biogenic methane from Agriculture. 
  • IFA attended the first meeting of the COPA Task Force Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The Green Deal puts forward a number of priorities, among the key policies and measures to achieve Green Deal is the proposal for a CBAM for selected sectors, which is scheduled for 2021. The mechanism is a tool to support the EU producers from the risk of carbon leakage. Avoiding the risk of carbon leakage is a pre-condition for preserving both the environmental integrity of EU climate policy and competitiveness of the agricultural sector.  
  • IFA attended the Working Party on Environment meeting, the topics discussed included the Biodiversity Strategy, Methane Strategy and Zero Pollution Action Plan. 
  • IFA is preparing a submission to the Farm to Fork consultation on organics. 

Upcoming issues

  • Upcoming consultation on the Nitrates Regulation. 

Paul O’Brien – Chair

Geraldine O’Sullivan – Executive

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