Climate change is challenging for Irish agriculture both in the context of greenhouse gas emissions and the need for adaptation of farming practices to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. In Ireland the Agriculture sector was directly responsible for 38.4% of national Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emissions in 2022, mainly methane from livestock, and nitrous oxide due to the use of nitrogen fertiliser and manure management.
Note: These pages present provisional 1990-2022 Inventory data (updated July 2023) and the EPA's latest 2022-2030 projections estimates (updated June 2023)
Agriculture was responsible for 38.4% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2022
Provisional EPA Inventory data shows that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Ireland decreased by 1.2% (or 0.29 Mt CO₂eq) in 2022 following an increase in 2021 of 3.6%.
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from a variety of processes or activities. You can see more information about each of these in the table and pie chart below.
Table 1: Sources of emissions
|Type of Activity||Description and associated emissions||Share of Emissions (2022)|
|Enteric Fermentation||Fermentation that takes place in the digestive systems of ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep resulting in direct emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.||62.63%|
|Agricultural Soils||Activities that lead to the direct and indirect emissions of nitrous oxide related to agricultural production, including application of synthetic fertilisers, animal wastes and other organic fertilisers, biological nitrogen fixation by crops, cultivation of organic soils, and mineralisation of crop residues.||19.87%|
|Manure Management||Methane and nitrous oxide greenhouse gases are produced during the management, storage and spreading of animal manure. Emissions from manure management vary significantly between the types of management system used.||11.48%|
|Fuel combustion (Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing)||Emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion in agriculture and forestry sectors.||2.81%|
|Liming||Soil pH plays a key role in soil fertility. The application of limestone to correct soil acidity results in emissions of carbon dioxide||2.68%|
|Urea application||The addition of urea-containing fertilisers to soils results in emissions of carbon dioxide that was fixed during the industrial production process.||0.54%|
Open in Excel: Agriculture Activity types 2022 (XLS 11KB)
The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2022 was decreased synthetic fertiliser use (-14%). The size of the dairy herd continued to increase, for the twelfth consecutive year (+0.9% in 2022), with a 0.7% increase in total national milk production.
In the last 10 years 2012 to 2022, dairy cow numbers increased by 42.5% and milk production increased by 68.6%. This reflects the national plans to expand milk production under Food Wise 2025 and the removal of the milk quota in 2015.
In the same 10-year period sheep numbers increased by 14.7%, pigs by 4.6% and poultry by 20.4%.
(Latest update June 2023)
Total emissions from agriculture are projected to decrease by 4% over the period 2021-2030 to 22.8 Mt CO2 eq under the With Existing Measures scenario.
Under the With Additional Measures scenario emissions are projected to decrease to approximately 19 Mt CO2 eq by 2030 which is an almost 20% reduction over the period 2021 to 2030. This scenario assumes the implementation of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2023 (with the exception of diversification measures in Table 16.6 in the Climate Action Plan 2023), measures in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve1.
A sensitivity analysis of the With Existing Measures emissions scenario has been undertaken for the agriculture emissions projections based on alternative projected activity data scenarios provided by Teagasc. One alternative scenario is presented which looks at stronger growth in agricultural activity levels.
The resulting emissions are presented below alongside the WEM scenario, showing that stronger growth would likely lead to higher emissions over the projected period.