Ireland to scale up ‘carbon farming’ with key role for farmers in capturing emissions

Minister announces €2.7m to expand National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory

The Government is to scale up efforts to roll out carbon farming in Ireland, a key element of which is to capture greenhouse gases in soils.

Carbon farming is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon-dioxide and storing it in soils, crop roots, wood and leaves with a view to helping reduce climate change.

The role of the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (Nasco), set up by Teagasc in 2020, is being enhanced to monitor soils and set baselines on levels of carbon trapped in land. Ultimately it is hoped farmers will be rewarded by having improved quality soil.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has allocated €2.7 million in addition funding for the observatory to purchase additional greenhouse gas monitoring equipment and to increase the range and type of soils and land uses monitored.


Nasco will take samples on selected farms and monitor carbon levels on a regular basis. It is considered "a nature-based solution" to addressing the climate crisis because of its proven ability to store atmospheric carbon.

“This investment of more than €2.7million funding to expand the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory reaffirms my commitment to provide the research and data needed to underpin the development of a carbon farming model that targets and rewards actions that remove carbon and store it in our soils,” Mr McConalogue said.

The investment will benefit agriculture and society at large, he said, through the better understanding of our greenhouse gas emissions “and the highlighting of pathways through which we can achieve significant emission reductions”.

He added: “Carbon farming is an area that will become a crucial part of the future of farming in this country. This will be an opportunity for our farmers to derive a new income stream for their farm.”


To reward farmers for the climate actions they take, a well-functioning carbon farming framework that provides confidence, verification and certification is essential, Mr McConalogue said.

He has established a working group, chaired by officials from his department with expertise drawn from across government, to examine key requirements for the framework.

It will assess existing knowledge relevant to baseline data, make recommendations for pathways to address knowledge gaps, assess future auditing requirements, and consider development of voluntary carbon codes. It will also examine the possibility to leverage private financing through public/private partnerships, and best practice governance structures.

Mr McConalogue and Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, have welcomed publication by the European Commission of its policy paper Sustainable Carbon Cycles. This highlights the importance of the development and deployment at scale of carbon removal solutions, both technical and land-based, as indispensable to reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

Senator Hackett said: “This publication gives clarity to a number of areas of importance to farmers, landowners and foresters alike who have been calling for the establishment of initiatives which support their participation in voluntary carbon markets.”

Her department has been involved in similar initiatives under the Woodland Environmental Fund and Agroforestry Scheme. “We can clearly see the benefit to both participant and government of incentivising not only on-farm tree-planting but a broad range of carbon-farming practices.”


Teagasc has commenced intensive monitoring of carbon emissions and removals across a range of Irish soils, “putting Ireland at the forefront internationally in terms of understanding, supporting and rewarding farmers for practices that build carbon stores in our soils,” Mr McConalogue said.

Teagasc's head of environment, soils and land-use research, Dr Karl Richards, said expansion of the observatory "will provide the research community in Ireland with cutting edge research facilities to better refine agricultural emissions and identify new mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and will place Ireland at the forefront of EU carbon sequestration research."

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times