International agreement to reduce short-lived climate pollutants spells danger for Ireland

At the UN climate change talks in Doha, Qatar, little has been accomplished to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but in a parallel action the 25 members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) have agreed to significantly reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, which include black carbon (soot), ozone, and, critically for the island of Ireland, methane. The pollutants contribute to global warming, but unlike CO2 that remains in the atmosphere for decades, even hundreds of years, these emissions last for a few days, weeks or decades. The United Kingdom, but not Ireland, has joined the Coalition.

So why is this a problem for the island of Ireland. Almost a third of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI) come from agriculture and methane is the main constituent of such emissions. Both jurisdictions already face a major challenge in reducing methane from agriculture in order to meet their commitments to control GHGs under EU requirements, which continue to get more demanding.

At the same time, the governments on the island of Ireland plan on aggressively increasing agriculture production, primarily for export, as one of the means of economic recovery. In the Republic of Ireland the government’s Harvest 2020 plan calls for almost 50% increase in dairy production by 2020.

Also at the same time, both governments are considering whether to permit fracking to exploit natural gas resources on the island. Fracking results in significant releases of methane.

If agriculture is allowed unlimited growth and/or fracking is allowed at all, then reduction in GHGs will have to come from somewhere, e.g., transport — will everybody be allowed to drive only a few days a week?

This pressure already exists with regard to current EU limits on GHG emissions. With the new CCAC action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, greater limits will have to be placed on agriculture and fracking rejected, or everybody may be driving only a few days every other week.

See the earlier (12 July 2012) posting “Harvest 2020” in ieBLOG by John Sweeney







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