• An Analysis of the Cost of the Abatement of Ammonia Emissions in Irish Agriculture to 2030

      Buckley, Cathal; Krol, Dominika; Lanigan, Gary J.; Donnellan, Trevor; Spink, John; Hanrahan, Kevin; Boland, Andy; Forrestal, Patrick; Humphreys, James; Murphy, Pat; et al. (Teagasc, 2020-09)
      This analysis quantifies the potential to abate national ammonia (NH3) emissions up to 2030. This report is an updated marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) analysis where Teagasc has quantified the abatement potential of a range of ammonia mitigation measures, as well as their associated costs/benefits (see Lanigan et al. 2015 for previous analysis). The objective of this analysis is to quantify the extent and costs associated with meeting future ammonia emission targets that were negotiated as part of the amended Clean Air Policy Package. The requirement to reduce ammonia emissions is urgent, both in terms of compliance with the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NECD), and as a principal loss pathway for agricultural nitrogen (N). Improvement of N efficiency is a key focus for improving farm efficiency and sustainability as well as reducing the ammonia, nitrate and greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of agriculture. This is particularly relevant in the context of the national strategies on the development of the agri-food sector: Food Wise 2025, Ag-food strategy 2030 and Ag-Climatise (currently under development) and the newly unveiled EU Farm to Fork Strategy, which is a part of the European Green Deal. Under the baseline scenario (S1), agricultural ammonia emissions are projected to increase by 9% (without any mitigation) by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. While these increases are small in comparison to the targeted increase in agricultural output, they will provide a major challenge to meeting emissions targets, particularly as agriculture comprises over 99% of national emissions. The analysis presented in this report seeks to quantify the ammonia mitigation potential under likely uptake pathways. This is not an exhaustive analysis of all mitigation measures, but represents an assessment of best available techniques, based on scientific, peer-reviewed research carried out by Teagasc and associated national and international research partners. Indeed, any future changes in the sector or in the national emission inventory calculations will require further analysis of the applicability of ammonia mitigation techniques, particularly in terms of housing and storage but also in the context of other reactive N1 emissions. It should also be noted that some mitigation measures, particularly those related to nitrogen application to soils, could result in either higher greenhouse gas emissions or higher nitrate leaching. Compared to a future where no mitigation measures are deployed to address emissions, by 2030 the average technical abatement2 potential was estimated to be approximately 15.26 kt NH3 at a net cost of €10.86 million per annum. However, it should be noted that the net cost (€10.86 million) is comprised of 6 measures that are cost negative (-€22.21 million) and 7 measures that are cost positive (€33.07) and that some of the cost negative measures are predicated on efficiency gains driven by best management practice adoption (e.g. liming and clover measures with associate chemical N reductions). Amongst the thirteen mitigation measures selected for this analysis, 80% of the mitigation potential can be achieved by the full implementation of the mitigation pathways for protected urea and low emission slurry spreading (LESS) techniques for bovines. It should be stressed that this is an assessment of the maximum abatement potential and realising this level of abatement in practice will be extremely challenging. Any increase in agricultural activity beyond the baseline scenario will increase absolute emissions. The level of mitigation achievable is based on the draft AgClimatise measures any delay or reduction in the uptake of these measures will reduce the mitigation achieved. It must also be ensured that all mitigation measures should, where possible, be synergistic with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and N loss to water.
    • Hobson’s Choice: Finding the right mix of agricultural and environmental policy for Irish agriculture

      Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Lanigan, Gary J. (2021-11-16)
      Abstract As part of its international obligations, Ireland faces emission reduction targets with respect to greenhouse gases (GHG). These reduction targets are to be achieved both in the short term and over the coming decades. Agriculture is a substantial source (33%) of Ireland’s GHG emissions. Whereas the economic welfare of farmers has been the dominant force in shaping agriculture policy for several decades, there has been a notable increase in environmental concerns and a gradual emergence of environmental policies which are relevant to agriculture, particularly in the last 10 years. The future evolution of the agri-food sector in Ireland must therefore be seen in the context of both the economic growth objectives of national agricultural policy, as well as national environmental policy objectives arising from international obligations. In light of the recent proposals with respect to the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 (EC, 2018), environmental objectives will become an increasingly important subset of the CAP objectives and the implementation of the CAP in Ireland. The EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) requires that Ireland reduce its non-ETS GHG emission by 20% by 2020 relative to the 2005 level. The reduction target for the non-ETS sector for 2030 is 30%, but incorporates so called flexibility mechanisms designed to make the achievement of this target less onerous. A partial equilibrium model of Irish agriculture is used to explore differing future outcomes in terms of the sector’s size and associated GHG emissions to 2030. The scenario analysis employed demonstrates the implications of different future pathways for bovine (dairy and beef) agriculture, the dominant sector in Irish agriculture and the principal source of its GHG emissions. Mitigation actions are then factored in to provide measures of future levels of emissions inclusive of this mitigation capacity. While technical mitigation actions are largely grounded in interventions that are based on science, the scenario analysis makes clear that the scale of the ultimate challenge in mitigating agricultural GHG emissions will be determined by the overall size of the agriculture sector and the intensity of production per hectare. The dairy and beef sectors in Ireland are noteworthy for their contrasting levels of profitability; dependence on support payments; and farm income. Now that the EU milk quota has been eliminated, from the perspective of economic development, an increase in the size of the dairy sector and entry into the dairy sector are desirable economic policy objectives. However, the paper demonstrates the strong contrast between dairy and beef farms, not just in terms of income but also in terms of intensity of production per hectare and the associated level of emissions produced. It follows that a transition from beef production to dairy production, while desirable from the point of view of farm income, could have adverse consequences for emissions.