Gas Net­works’ Graze Gas ini­tia­tive will cut emis­sions

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COMMENT - Stephen Cado­gan

Well done to Gas Net­works Ire­land (GNI) for its plan to de­liver re­new­able gas, much of it likely to come from farms, into the na­tional gas net­work, via cen­tral grid in­jec­tion fa­cil­i­ties, the first of which will be lo­cated at Mitchel­stown, Co Cork.

This project has won fund­ing from the govern­ment’s Cli­mate Ac­tion Fund, and is due to start next year. GNI runs the nat­u­ral gas net­work in Ire­land, sup­ply­ing 700,000 homes and busi­nesses. They say the Graze Gas project will even­tu­ally de­liver 8% of Ire­land’s res­i­den­tial gas de­mand, and re­duce Ir­ish emis­sions by 197,000 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide per an­num. It starts in Mitchel­stown be­cause of the area’s huge po­ten­tial for farm-based anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion plants that will be fed by ma­te­ri­als such as food waste, slurry, and other farm wastes. Us­ing farm an­i­mal waste to gen­er­ate bio­gas will re­duce the emis­sions from Ire­land’s rapidly ex­pand­ing dairy and beef in­dus­tries.

By get­ting in­volved in anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion, farm­ers can do their bit to fight cli­mate change. That will be a wel­come change from death by a thou­sand cuts, as var­i­ous sources point their fingers at farm­ers as ma­jor vil­lains be­hind cli­mate change. Only this week, the In­terA­cademy Part­ner­ship of science acad­e­mies (the Royal Ir­ish Academy is the only Ir­ish mem­ber) said agricul- ture, forestry and land-use change (ex­clud­ing food trans­port) con­trib­ute 20-25% of global emis­sions, and live­stock cause the same car­bon emis­sions as all the world’s ve­hi­cles, trains, ships and planes com­bined. Farm­ers could be for­given for think­ing sci­en­tists want them to dis­ap­pear, even be­fore Cli­mate Ac­tion Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton ever an­nounces his Govern­ment Plan of ac­tions to make Ire­land a leader in re­spond­ing to cli­mate change. Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed has said the mit­i­ga­tion po­ten­tial for agri­cul­ture is lim­ited.

In the EU’S 2050 – A Clean Planet for All strat­egy, it is e n vi s a g e d t h e n o n - C O 2 emis­sions, of which agricul- ture is the EU’S largest source, will be chal­leng­ing to re­duce, and as over­all green­house gas emis­sions con­tinue to de­crease, agri­cul­ture is likely to ac­count for a rel­a­tively large share of the re­main­ing emis­sions.

How­ever, it says emis­sions from agri­cul­ture can be re­duced through cer­tain prac­tices and tech­nolo­gies which also in­flu­ence car­bon stor­age in soil, and agri­cul­ture has an im­por­tant role to play in pro­duc­ing sus­tain­able biomass for the bio-econ­omy and en­ergy sec­tors.

That is a much more con­struc­tive ap­proach that the In­tera­cademy Part­ner­ship sug­ges­tions that ev­ery­one eat more plant-based “flex­i­tar­ian” di­ets, in­clud­ing lab­o­ra­tory-grown meats. If lim­it­ing cli­mate change de­pends on the world’s pop­u­la­tion of 7.5 bil­lion fol­low­ing that ad­vice, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change’s call to limit global warm­ing to 1.5˚C is likely to be missed by a big mar­gin. The EU knows from its ex­pe­ri­ences with the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy that farm­ers will re­spond pos­i­tively to what­ever cli­mate change in­cen­tives are in the CAP af­ter 2020. The ex­am­ple of Ger­many proves that, with biomass from the land con­tribut­ing about one fifth of Ger­many’s re­new­able en­ergy, and a con­sid­er­able amount also from wind tur­bines and so­lar pan­els on farm­land. They help Ger­many pro­duce enough re­new­able en­ergy in six months to power the coun­try’s house­holds for an e n t i re y e a r , f o l l o w i n g t h e coun­try’s 33% in­crease in re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion in three years.

Ire­land is a re­new­able en­ergy slow­coach, but wind sup­plies nearly 30% of our elec­tric­ity; the GNI ini­tia­tive gets bio­gas un­der way next year; and nearly 5,000 megawatts of so­lar farms are in early stages of devel­op­ment. The United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change says re­new­able en­ergy is a high-po­ten­tial mit­i­ga­tion op­por­tu­nity.

For farm­ers, it is a wel­come op­por­tu­nity for ac­tion on cli­mate change, while they leave the sci­en­tists and politi­cians to talk it over.

“Farm­ers could be for­given for think­ing sci­en­tists want them to dis­ap­pear, even be­fore Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton ever an­nounces his plan to make Ire­land a leader in ” re­spond­ing to cli­mate change

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