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 37.5% of national Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emissions in 2021, mainly methane from livestock, and nitrous oxide due to the use of nitrogen fertiliser and manure management.
Note: These pages present provisional 1990-2021 Inventory data (updated July 2022) and the EPA's latest 2021-2030 projections estimates (updated June 2022) using global warming potentials (GWP) from the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report (AR5).
Agriculture was responsible for 37.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2021
Provisional EPA Inventory data shows that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Ireland increased by 3.0% (or 0.25 Mt CO₂eq) in 2021 following an increase in 2020 of 1.3% also.
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 (2021)|
|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.||60.67%|
|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.||21.78%|
|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.||11.72%|
|Fuel combustion (Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing)||Emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion in agriculture and forestry sectors.||2.80%|
|Liming||Soil pH plays a key role in soil fertility. The application of limestone to correct soil acidity results in emissions of carbon dioxide||2.59%|
|Urea application||The addition of urea-containing fertilisers to soils results in emissions of carbon dioxide that was fixed during the industrial production process.||0.44%|
Open in Excel: Agriculture Activity types 2021 (XLS 11KB)
The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2021 were increased fertiliser use (+5.2%) and liming (+49.5%). The size of the dairy herd continued to increase, for the eleventh consecutive year (+2.8% in 2021), with a 5.5% increase in total national milk production.
From 2015 to 2021, dairy cow numbers increased by 22.6% and milk production increased by 36.9%. This reflects the national plans to expand milk production under Food Wise 2025 and the removal of the milk quota in 2015.
Other cattle numbers increased in 2021 by 0.3% and sheep numbers increased by 0.4%. In the last seven years (2015-2021), the numbers of other cattle have increased by 1.9%, while there have been increases in the numbers of sheep (+9.5%), pigs (+13.2%) and poultry (+12.7%).
(Latest update June 2022)
Total emissions from agriculture are projected to decrease by 0.67% 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 17.8 Mt CO2 eq by 2030 which is a 21.0% reduction over the period 2021 to 2030. This scenario assumes a total of 16.5 Mt CO2 eq of mitigation over the period 2021-2030 with the implementation of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, including those measures in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve1.
Note: these projected emissions were published in June 2022 before the publication of the latest provisional inventory emissions for 1990-2021 (published in July 2022). The projected emissions are estimated using the final 1990-2020 inventory data (published in March 2022). The projected 2021 emission data is therefore different to the provisional 2021 inventory data.
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.