PRESS RELEASE: Emissions reductions deal a dreadful failure of leadership

Jul 29


29th July 2022 

Emissions reductions deal a dreadful failure of leadership

The deal reached by the government, which fails to meet even the minimum legal requirement of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030, has demonstrated a dreadful lack of leadership.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is particularly disappointed that more was not done to reach the higher level of ambition for reducing the impact of agriculture on our environment. While agriculture had already been given special status, and a lower ambition level, to see this reduced even further is disappointing.

Achieving higher levels of emissions reductions in agriculture would not only have helped to reach climate targets but would have contributed to the easing of our biodiversity and water crises. Agriculture is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases but the greatest pressure on water quality and the greatest driver of species extinction. Only transformational change in our food system will be sufficient to drive change in these areas.

As pointed out by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), yesterday’s deal did not include emissions from land use despite our land being a net emitter of carbon. We agree with the CCAC that this “needs to be addressed urgently”. This principally arises from drained peatlands and emissions are projected to increase due to a failed forestry strategy that will see a reduction in tree cover in the coming years. This points to the urgent need for a rewilding strategy that can simultaneously reduce emissions, protect and restore waters and provide essential habitat for biodiversity. Specifically, we suggest:

  • While methane emissions from the nearly four million sheep in Ireland are relatively small (c.4% of the total), we estimate that the removal of free roaming sheep from uplands would shave a percentage point off total agricultural emissions (and every percentage point matters). More significantly this would allow for the restoration of native woodlands and peat bogs which would not only reduce emissions from land but remove carbon from the air.
  • The restoration of native forests across the country, primarily through the natural regeneration of trees is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to achieve environmental goals. Rewilding requires no licensing procedures and so has minimal bureaucratic burden for landowners (although requiring the protection of habitats and species which are sensitive to forest establishment). Our forthcoming forest strategy must prioritise ecosystem restoration over a failed industrial model of tree growing.
  • A programme for the rewetting of peatland soils needs to be rolled out as a matter of priority. This would not only stop emissions from the soil (calculated as 7,566ktCO2eq in 2021) but would lead to a reduction in livestock numbers.
  • Peatlands across the country need to be restored and rewilded. The remit of Coillte needs to change from being purely commercial to one of land restoration. As they own c.8% of the entire country they should be leading the charge in this field. Similarly, Bord naMóna should be rewetting all of their peatlands. The active pumping of degraded peat at the site of the proposed Shannon Wilderness Park in Co. Longford needs to cease.

The IWT believes that redirecting farming subsidies towards rewilding could be the single most effective means of storing carbon, mitigating droughts, floods and fires, cleaning water and bringing back wildlife populations.

Ultimately, people need to demand more of our politicians, particularly of the three big parties, to stand up against narrow sectoral interests and prioritise a safe future for all.



CONTACT: Padraic Fogarty IWT Campaigns Officer