Greenhouse gas policies in Ireland 1990 -2012 : Reliance on the land
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This research sought to determine the extent to which national greenhouse gas (GHG) policy relied upon the land, through afforestation, controls on agriculture, and expansion of bioenergy. The implications of this reliance were explored with reference to evolving EU targets and sustainability considerations. The study was based on analysis of national and UNFCCC documents for the period 1990 to 2012, supplemented by interviews with actors and stakeholders. Ireland was assigned a Kyoto limit of +13% re 1990. It was found that savings associated with the land were 5 MtCO2eq, which facilitated a 34% increase in emissions from energy and industry sectors, while still meeting the limit. However, the state also faced a stringent EU target of 20% reduction in emissions by 2020. National actors attributed the difficulty in reaching this target to agricultural emissions, and called for reductions. This view is questioned. In the historical context, agricultural emissions were not excessive. In terms of food energy and life-cycle emissions, Irish agriculture is highly efficient. The conclusion of this research is that the onerous EU 20% reduction requirement was an unintended outcome of EU policymaking and the design of the emissions trading scheme, exacerbated by Ireland's reliance on afforestation. Regarding sustainability, Irish policy exhibited deficiencies. Forest sequestration could not continue indefinitely, and restricting agricultural emissions ran counter to world population and food projections. Bioenergy targets exceeded indigenous resources, and liquid biofuels would increase net food energy imports, threatening food security. This research suggests an approach to GHG policy in which emissions and sinks related to the land are partitioned from fossil fuel emissions. The state could seek to comply with the EU 20% reduction target for 2020, but for energy and industrial emissions only. Regarding the land, a sustainable policy would be to aim towards long-term GHG neutrality.
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