28 September, Dublin and online
The 2030 vision for Ireland’s agri-food sector
Ireland’s strategy is to achieve a climate-neutral food system by 2050, with verifiable progress by 2030, so that harmful greenhouse gas emissions (such as methane and ammonia) are reduced, remaining agricultural emissions are balanced by carbon sequestration (for example through increasing forests), and air, biodiversity and water quality are improved.
The Irish Climate Action Plan 2023 and the Food Vision 2030 Strategy have set out ambitious plans for the Irish land and agri-food system, with a commitment to reduce emissions from agriculture by 25% by 2030.
The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine has partnered with EIT Climate-KIC – Europe’s largest climate innovation initiative – to work with public and private stakeholders in the Irish land and agri-food system to help accelerate its pathways to climate neutrality.
EIT Climate-KIC is applying its ‘Deep Demonstration’ model of innovation to the entire agri-food and bio-based value chain, from soil to farm to fork to society. This involves working with stakeholders from both public and private sectors, including finance and education, as well as civil society, to develop and deploy coordinated innovation actions that work – in practice and at scale – and to obtain insights and lessons about a range (‘portfolio’) of solutions.
The Ireland Deep Demonstration partnership is going through the following roadmap:
- Create a comprehensive ‘systems map’ of the sector, showing the key relationships, existing initiatives, and potential ‘levers of change’ for effective innovation interventions.
- Identify a portfolio of coordinated, mutually reinforcing innovation solutions that will enable the Irish land and agri-food system to reach its environmental, social and economic targets.
- Support the implementation of these solutions at scale, learning and iterating to accelerate the transition.
The impact of Ireland’s agri-food sector
According to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture currently contributes 37% of the total greenhouse gases emitted in Ireland. This is almost three times the average in Europe and indicates the significance of agriculture in the Irish economy. Greenhouse gas emissions on Irish farms come primarily from:
- methane belched by cattle and sheep
- fertiliser use
- animal excrement
- diesel fuel
The latest estimates show that total emissions in the agriculture sector have increased by 15% from 1990 to 2021, mainly driven by a 17.7% increase in methane emissions from enteric fermentation and a 29.6% increase in emissions from manure management.
Additional target mitigation measures for agriculture and land use by 2030
- A reduction of at least 10% in biogenic methane.
- A reduction of 5% (below 2005 levels) in ammonia emissions, to improve air quality.
- A reduction of over 50% of nitrous oxide emissions associated with chemical fertiliser.
- A reduction in nutrient losses from agriculture to water, to improve water quality by 50%.
- At least 7.5% of utilisable agricultural area to be farmed organically.
- Achieving 30% of marine protected areas, to improve seafood sustainability.
- Double the sustainable production of biomass from forests to 2 million tonnes (by 2035).
Stories from the Ireland Deep Demonstration project
Ireland wants to embrace change, to mitigate its agricultural footprint, and to adapt to the effects that climate change is already having on its oldest and largest domestic sector. A sector that has seen a 50% increase in size in the last 10 years, with food exports at a record €15.4 billion in 2021.
In 2021, the agri-food sector in Ireland:
- Employed 170,400 people, representing 7.1% of the total workforce.
- Saw a 36% increase in investment to over €1.39 billion.
- Counted 135,000 farms, 2,000 fishing vessels and aquaculture sites, and 2,000 food production and beverage enterprises.
The stories you can read in this section capture the difficulties encountered by Irish farmers, fishers and forest owners, as well as their determination to meet these challenges head-on. But they also tell of the underlying hope in a beautiful, just and more sustainable future for the next generations. The Ireland Deep Demonstration project has uncovered a powerful red thread, in each conversation with the people we have met: the desire to find solutions that work, and the will to put them into practice.