Teagasc this week released their new Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (‘MACC’) which identifies the most cost-effective pathway to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. This is the third iteration of the MACC, with previous iterations published in 2012 and 2018.


The latest MACC does not appropriately acknowledge the escalation of agriculture emissions almost every year since the first MACC was published in 2012, despite all MACCs being considered the ‘roadmap’ for agricultural action on climate and cutting emissions. No such GHG emission mitigation has occurred, in fact Ireland’s agriculture emissions have trended significantly upwards in recent years, with only a slight reduction in some individual years due to particular circumstances.


This MACC proposes just three scenarios for consideration, with all three forecasting an increase in the dairy herd, while relying on a decrease in the suckler herd to meet the carbon budget.  There is also a strong reliance on ‘new science’ in order to balance the carbon books within all three scenarios, such as manure amendments and feed additives, but the report itself acknowledges that those measures require significant research and testing before they are deployed.


Dr. Elaine McGoff, Head of Advocacy with An Taisce said:

“Given the failures of previous MACCs, why is the proven mitigation effect of production quotas not examined under the new MACC proposals? The MACC proposals only consider measures that perpetuate the existing policy of ongoing expansion of animal agriculture, with all scenarios forecasting an increase in the dairy herd, rather than offering decision-makers and the public a fuller range of policy options that acknowledge the full climate and pollution costs of options.

“Teagasc have continually claimed that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to cutting agricultural emissions, all the while ignoring the measure that would clearly have the greatest impact - a systematic move away from animal agriculture.”


Professor Emeritus John Sweeney, Member of An Taisce's Climate Committee, said

“The latest EPA emissions data demonstrates that hard limits on fertiliser inputs do limit emissions, but waiting for price shocks is very poor policy for meeting climate targets and for most farmers. By contrast, enforcing quota limits on total quantities of input nitrogen, nationally and by watershed, or on outputs of milk and meat production, will hit environmental targets with certainty and enable greater business confidence for farming.”

Teagasc’s new MACC is, in many ways, an exercise in doing the same thing as before and expecting a different result. It should not fall to Teagasc to decide what is politically acceptable as a proposal to cut emissions.  Nevertheless, these MACC proposals are inherently political because they fail to set out a full range of measures, such as options that could increase the resilience of farming and farms in Ireland in a more equitable way, while limiting emissions and pollution.

The public is demanding system change, not climate change.  In 2019, An Taisce said that ‘Ireland needs Teagasc and the Government to change direction, and to do so quickly, in line with the best scientific evidence.’ Any reasonable analysis of this new MACC publication demonstrates that Teagasc has failed, once again, to follow the scientific evidence and change direction accordingly.


Contact: Elaine McGoff