About this project

In September 2008, Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability was awarded funding from the Irish Department of the Environment for two policy research projects. This website documents the development of Carbon Cycles and Sinks project.

The purpose of this Carbon Cycles and Sinks project was to develop policies which will enable the Irish land mass to become a carbon sink rather than a source of greenhouse emissions. This project was led by the late Richard Douthwaite, and Corinna Byrne acted project coordinator and lead researcher.

The Carbon Cycles and Sinks project was completed in 2011. For more information please contact info [at] feasta.org.

Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Mass Deforestation: Report

Failure to act urgently to shift historical patterns of forest destruction could result in the loss of 232 million hectares of forest by 2050, according to WWF and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in their Living Forests report. A growing global population demanding more food, fibre, and fuel coupled with historical patterns in misgoverned forest resources will lead to massive destruction of forests, loss of species and release of carbon emissions unless action is taken immediately, the report predicts.
WWF is calling upon public and private institutions to take on an initiative of Zero Net Deforestation and Forest Degradation (ZNDD) by 2020 as part of the International Year of the Forests (See Bridges Trade BioRes 7 February 2011). The initiative strives for “no net forest loss through deforestation and no net decline in forest quality through degradation.”
Urgency of action
Due to the impacts that forest loss is having on climate change and biodiversity, ZNDD requires immediate and widespread implementation, says WWF.
“If we delay and climate change impacts kick in, forests as a whole will become more like emissions sources rather than sinks,” Rod Taylor, WWF’s director of forests told BioRes. Therefore, Taylor said, ZNDD aims to be a part of achieving global emissions peak by 2020, as well as following the emissions decline.
Furthermore, there is urgency for biodiversity as well. The loss of forest habitats is the leading cause of forest species decline and extinction, according to WWF’s Living Planets Index report.
“The best way to save species is by saving forests,” said Taylor. “Every year we defer, we lose species that can never be replaced.”
The Living Forests report highlights the “high degree of synergy” strategies to curb climate change have with efforts to reduce loss of biodiversity and denotes the necessity to make changes to benefits them both sooner rather than later.
Achieving ZNDD
WWF advocates more efficient land use and a change in consumption habits as key to achieving ZNDD. If no action is taken to improve governance over deforestation by 2030, WWF predicts that some 55 percent of deforestation would be due to failure to optimise land use.
However, the report says, boosting productivity of agricultural land rather than expanding crop cultivation is a major means by which nations – especially developing ones – can maintain their economic growth strategies while avoiding further deforestation.
“A really good example could be palm oil in Indonesia, where government has production growth goals that can be met through efficiency and high productivity rather than expansion into more and more land,” Taylor pointed out.
Good governance is therefore a necessity to ZNDD success, the report acknowledges, because without good governance it is difficult for forests to compete with economic incentives.
To be able to sustain forests, consumption patterns in the developed world need to shrink, the report says. Essentially, the Living Forests report finds that rich countries will need to reduce food waste, meat and dairy intake, energy use, and general over-consumption to allow for secure access to basic materials in the developing world.
Taylor also noted that safeguards on supply chains have the capacity to alter consumption patterns, making them more sustainable.
“By placing safeguards, such as the EC ban on illegal timber, developed nations can make sure they are not outsourcing environmental problems” (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 23 June 2010).
The ZNDD would be a comprehensive measure that would encompass the globe to ensure protection over forests in order to reduce detrimental impacts on climate change, biodiversity, and economic development.
“Doing nothing, delaying or taking half measures, all result in more forest loss and associated GHG emissions, irreversible impacts on biodiversity and declines in ecosystem services,” the report says. The Living Forests report will be in development throughout 2011.
More information
The Living Forests report can be found here.
ICTSD Reporting; “Forests: What future do we want?”, WWF PRESS RELEASE, April 2011; “WWF warns of massive forest loss”, UPI, 27 April 2011.

Upcoming Event- Low External Input Agriculture – the only road to a sustainable food supply

Low External Input Agriculture – the only road to a sustainable food supply.

Presented by Feasta, the Carbon Cycles and Sinks Network and Gorta

Thursday 28th April 2011:

Venue: The McLelland Room, The Central Hotel, Exchequer Street, Dublin 2.

Session 1: Organic farming’s role in improving food security and combatting climate change.

11.00 Registration
11.30 Gundula Azeez: How organic methods can lower greenhouse emissions and reduce reliance on fossil energy
12.30 Questions and discussion
13.00 – 1400 Lunch

Gundula Azeez has been working on agricultural policy for over sixteen years. After five years with the British National Farmers’ Union (NFU), including two years in its Brussels office, she spent a year at the European Commission working on agricultural trade and other issues. She then worked as the Soil Association’s Policy Manager for nine years. She is the author of the Soil Association’s reports “Soil Carbon and Organic Farming” (November 2009, available on the internet) and “The biodiversity impacts of organic farming”. She co-authored the Soil Association’s report on the impact of GM crops in North America, “Seeds of Doubt”, and was an adviser to the British government’s economic review of GM crops.

Session 2: Biochar’s role in increasing fertility and reducing fertiliser use

14.00 Witold Kwapinski: Biochar research in Ireland
14.20 David Friese-Greene: Using biochar on small farms in rural India.
15.00 Questions and discussion.
15.30 Session ends.

Dr. Witold Kwapinski is a Process and Chemical Engineering lecturer at the University of Limerick and a member of the Carbolea reseach group there. His research concentrates on processes such as pyrolysis, gasification and acid hydrolysis which convert plant material into fuels, chemicals and substances such as biochar. He designed a pilot-scale gasifier already in operation at the University.

David Friese-Greene In pursuit of his aim ‘education through communication’ David has made documentary films about research projects thoughout the world, including some for the British Antarctic Survey. He has a degree in ecology and animal behaviour,and in 2003 he began to work with an Indian NGO, SCAD (Social Change and Development) which is based in Tamil Nadu. For the past three years he has been heavily involved in a project to establish the extent to which biochar can enable farmers in the districts in which SCAD works to improve their soil’s fertility and lessen their need for artificial fertilisers. He has just returned from India after the installation of an Australian-made pyrolyser to produce biochar.

SCAD has strong Irish connnections because it has been receiving assistance from Gorta for the past fifteen years. In particular, Gorta has been funding horticultural development as an alternative to traditional rice and cereal farming since these give poor results in the low rainfall areas in which SCAD works.

Admission to a single session – 10 euro. Admission to both sessions, 15 euro.

If you will be attending the first session and would like lunch with the speaker at the hotel, please let Feasta know by sending an e-mail to info@feasta.org so that we reserve enough space in the restaurant. Soup and sandwiches will cost 8.50 euro. and if other options are available, we will tell you when you register at 11am.

Continue reading Upcoming Event- Low External Input Agriculture – the only road to a sustainable food supply

€11 million compensation for Turf Cutters

In order to stop turfcutting on protected sites the State will spend more than €11 million compensating turf cutters.

Paul Melia, Farming Indepenent (14/4/11) writes:

The scheme will pay some 750 turf-cutters a total of €15,000 each over the next 15 years for the loss of their rights (€1,000 each per year).

Independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who is also a spokesman for the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, last night accused Fine Gael of reneging on its promise to discuss the issue.

He said the ban would be ignored by families who relied on turf to heat their homes.

Click here for more information

Slimmed down AEOS

If you don’t have a Special Area of Conservation or Special Protection Area on your land it looks like you may lose your place on a slimmed-down version of the AEOS scheme.

Catriona Murphy of the Farming Independent (12/4/2011) writes:

Demand for AEOS places is likely to outstrip the number available by 2:1, with some 15,000 farmers expected to apply.With the budget slashed from €50m to €25m and a €1,000 reduction in the maximum payment per farmer, it looks increasingly likely that demand from SAC and SPA farmers could be enough to account for all available places. At a maximum payment of €4,000 per farmer, the €25m budget for 2011 would only allow 6,250 farmers into the scheme this year, but not every farmer will reach the maximum payment.

Given that there are more than 20,000 farmers with SACs on their land, the chances of a farmer securing a place in the AEOS without an SAC or SPA designation are extremely slim.

Click here to read more.

Mediation group for Turf cutters

by Jason Michael & Harry McGee. Irish Times April 7th 2011

The Government has announced a new turf-cutting mediation body and promised details of a compensation scheme in response to a European infringement action against Ireland for failing to protect raised bogs.

In a statement, the Government said an independent, non-statutory Peatlands Council would be created to respond to commitments set out in the Programme for Government and to assist Ireland in responding to the requirements of the EU Habitat’s Directive, which require Ireland to protect and conserve important peatland habitats.

Conor Skehan, a lecturer at DIT’s School of Spatial Planning and former director of Bord na Móna, has been appointed as chair of the council.

For the full article click on this link

EU Commissioner insists CAP reform must embrace environmental agenda

Janez Potočnik says EU farming subsidies must drive greener practices for policy to remain legitimate
By Will Nichols 16 Mar 2011 Click here for full article.

Reforming the EU’s controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will only prove successful if the revamped scheme plays a significant role in helping the EU meet its environmental and climate targets.
That is the view of European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who used an address in Brussels yesterday to declare that any restructuring of the scheme must link subsidies for farmers to their environmental performance, while also promoting sustainable rural development and simplifying the current system.
“It is essential that the future CAP contributes the public goods we need to meet the environmental and climate challenges we are facing today,” Potočnik told the Future of Agriculture conference. “I do not see how the amount of public funds spent on agriculture can be legitimised unless the future CAP makes a significant contribution to reaching the EU’s environmental and climate targets.”
The CAP has long been a contentious issue for the EU, which spent around €55bn (47bn) on the programme in 2009. Critics have argued CAP has a weak environmental record, distorts the global economy, and harms trade interests while doing little to support the poorest farmers.
The economic crisis has increased the likelihood that the CAP will be altered in 2013, when the new long-term EU budget comes into force.
Potočnik said he was already in talks with EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş on how to include measures in the reformed CAP that would help EU member states meet their commitments to halting biodiversity loss and halting the degradation of ecosystems in Europe by 2020.
Proposals include linking the direct payments to farmers that make up the so-called ‘first pillar’ of the CAP to their ability to maintain permanent pasture, set aside land, or embrace crop diversification.
“We must not only sanction farmers who do not respect environmental rules, we must also reward those who do provide environmental public goods, because the market does not reward them for that,” Potočnik said.
Such a policy would not only help stop biodiversity loss and soil degradation, but also create “green corridors” that would help tackle climate change by reinforcing the resilience of Europe’s ecosystems, he added.
Potočnik also suggested rewarding farmers for better management of water and argued that CAP rural development money should remain available to help forests address biodiversity, climate and energy issues.
“If there is a CAP in the future, it must be green,” Potočnik concluded. “I do not see how the amount of public funds spent on agriculture can be legitimised unless the European taxpayer knows that the future CAP will make a significant contribution to reaching the EU’s environmental and climate targets and will provide environmental services such as biodiversity protection, flood prevention, fire prevention and so on.”

New thinking needed for farm investment rather than subsidisation

According to Teagasc, direct payments accounted for 143 per cent of farm incomes. This means that the average farm in Ireland is run at an operating loss. Yet there is a huge opportunity there. Unfortunately, agriculture is dominated by subsidies, and these are not a long-term answer to agriculture as a business.

Ireland receives about €1.7 billion per year in agricultural subsidies from the EU (or €13,000 per farm).

Payments like these distort the market, but abandoning them would mean that agriculture would collapse in Ireland.

David McWilliams believes that the agriculture industry needs to be shaken up. So, instead of telling average farmers that they will get a subsidy – ie a subsistence payment – farmers could get an ‘investment payment’.

Click here to read more

Fleeing Vesuvius- New Feasta book launched

Feasta’s  most important book to date, Fleeing Vesuvius draws together many of the ideas our members have developed over the years and applies them to a single question – how can we bring the world out of the mess in which it finds itself?

Fleeing Vesuvius confronts this mess squarely, analysing its many aspects: the looming scarcity of essential resources such as fossil fuels – the lifeblood of the world economy; the financial crisis in Ireland and elsewhere; the collapse of the housing bubble; the urgent need for food security; and the enormous challenge of dealing with climate change.

The solutions it puts forward involve changes to our economy and financial system, but they go much further: this substantial, wide-ranging book also looks at the changes needed in how we think, how we use the land and how we relate to others, particularly those where we live.

While it doesn’t discount the complexity of the problems we face, Fleeing Vesuvius is practical and fundamentally optimistic. It will arm readers with the confidence and knowledge they need to develop new, workable alternatives to the old-style expanding economy and its supporting systems. It’s a book that can be read all the way through or used as a resource to dip in and out of.

Copies of the book can be ordered here