Sustainability, Climate Change and Eco-Friendly Farming

One of Ireland’s richest natural farming advantages is that rainfall is abundant, frequent and clean. Apart from small acreages of horticultural crops, irrigation is not generally practised in Ireland.

Protection of Ireland’s natural environment has been a central element of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for over 20 years.

Payments to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are dependent on the achievement and maintenance of baseline standards on environmental and public health, animal and plant health, and animal welfare – otherwise known as “cross compliance”. This includes tagging all calves at birth and recording all sales and purchases; maintaining a record of all veterinary medicines used; preventing soil erosion and maintaining wildlife habitats. Further details are available from the EU Commission’s agriculture section at (

Environmental Protection Schemes (GLAS)


The Green, Local-Carbon Agri Environment Scheme (GLAS) 2014-2021 is Ireland's current approach to maintaining environmental stewardship. Farmers are required to comply with an environmental plan in order to qualify for an annual payment co-funded by the EU and the Irish State. The scheme aims to preserve traditional hay meadows and low input pastures and reduce carbon intensity as it encourages farmers to retain carbon stocks in soil through habitat preservation and practices such as minimum tillage.



Today, only 11% of Ireland’s land is in forestry (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 2020). This compares with an average 33.5% at an EU level and 30.6% at a global level.

Of the total forested area nationally, nearly 391,357 ha or 50.8% was in public ownership. Of this, 380,156 ha of the public forest area is managed by Coillte. Forest estates are heavily populated by conifers (71.2%) relative to broadleaves (28.7%), and nearly three-quarters of existing forest area in Ireland under 30 years of age (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 2020). The lack of broadleaved trees and the young age of forests pose a particular challenge in terms of their ability to act as a carbon sink and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Environmental Monitoring

The Environmental Protection Agency is the statutory body charged with monitoring and protecting Ireland’s environment. They produce regular reports on the quality of Ireland’s water air and natural environment, which can be accessed here.

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