Response to EPA published data on continued Ammonia Air Pollution

7th May 2019
Press Release

The May 2019 EPA published data of Air quality in Ireland shows continued increase in Ammonia Emissions.[1]

Ammonia (NH₃) has an air pollution and human health impact as well as being highly damaging to ecosystems in the local receiving environment. Ammonia concentrations cause algal slimes. Agriculture accounts for 99% of Ireland’s atmospheric ammonia pollution. Emissions of ammonia have been increasing since 2011 and were above the specified EU emission limit in 2016 for the first time.

The EPA Report identifies the impact of 3.1% increase in dairy cattle and other livestock and 8.8% in synthetic fertilizer nitrogen use in 2017. “The emissions in 2017 were 8.7 kt or 7.9 per cent higher than emissions in 1990. Animal manures produce about 90 per cent of ammonia emissions and chemical fertilisers and road transport account for the remainder. It is estimated that approximately 15 per cent of the nitrogen in animal manures and 2 per cent of nitrogen contained in chemical fertilisers is lost to the atmosphere as NH₃.”

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer Ian Lumley stated in response:

“While the EPA recommends that mitigation be taken there are no measures in place to take the necessary corrective action. Under current policies of increasing bovine agriculture and fertilizer use, ammonia emissions will worsen”

This is shown by 2019 data supplied by Teagasc showing continued increase in fertilizer import and use from 2016, and projected to continue to increase under different scenarios. [2]

As with the greenhouse gas emissions reductions which occurred during the 2000 to 2010 period, the reductions in fertiliser use which occurred in fertilizer imports during the 2000s have now been reversed and this will also cause continuing ammonia impact increase. [3]

On 4 April 2019 Teagasc set out a warning on the sustainability claims made for Irish food export promotion” Greenwashing could backfire on Irish farming [2]“;

“Irish agriculture needs to back up its 'green' image with credible evidence rather than "glamour stories" "In (Bord Bia's) Origin Green we are making very strong claims about sustainable performance and environmental performance that is creating a need for credible demonstration of sustainability - the industry needs credible evidence rather than glamour stories.

In addition to this the current national air pollution emissions accounting does not properly address the transboundary ammonia impact from Northern Ireland and on the border areas. Northern Ireland has particularly high levels of agricultural impact generating which is generating higher ammonia pollution compared to the rest of the UK [4]

“Action on reducing ammonia needs to be taken in conjunction with a major reduction of the greenhouse gases and damaging nature impact of Irish agriculture under current Foodwise 2025 Strategy for expanding beef and deity exports”

The March 2019 Join Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action report recommending “a need for a more diversified, resilient, sustainable and equitable model for Irish agriculture”, recognised that Irish agriculture has become over-reliant on emissions-intensive beef and dairy production. The actions required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can also be combined with a meaningful strategy to address ammonia pollution.

Ian Lumley continued "This will not occur as a result of trivial savings made via ‘smart farming’ initiatives, but will require a root-and-branch review of our agricultural production models."

ENDS

For further information, contact: Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer, An Taisce: +353 1 454 1786 Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995 email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Notes:

  1. http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/Irelands%20Air%20Pollutant%20Emissions%202017.pdf
  2. https://drive.google.com/file/d/15vKDnqA1BPNLhqz-HtptDX6uUfXr78Jj/view?usp=sharing
  3. https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/agri-business/greenwashing-could-backfire-on-farming-37971831.html
  4. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_o73sEkWd0Hzt7KFouEuheS8JKHbjabH/view?usp=sharing

An Taisce - Protecting Ireland’s heritage, safeguarding its future

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.