“All it takes is an ounce of Cróga” is the Social Media campaign to publicise our Cróga Report. The Cróga Report gives a detailed analysis of carbon emissions in every activity sector in Leitrim. We decided to share the essential points through images as follows…
Farms in Leitrim have the lowest Climate Impact in the country. That’s because Leitrim’s farming system is extensive and the majority of farmland qualifies as High Nature Value.
Still, more can be done to further enhance biodiversity and mitigate emissions.
Leitrim householders, living mostly in detached or semi-detached houses with no gas network, resort to stand-alone heating systems to keep warm. Oil is by far the main heating fuel, being used by 66% of households.
Oil is a nasty fossil fuel, its combustion responsible for the current climate crisis and emitting local pollutants involved in respiratory diseases. Cleaner alternatives exist and are being made available by SEAI grants, but householders still have to pay for upfront costs and go through a lot of papers. It’s time that retrofitting houses becomes accessible for all.
Leitrim car traffic volume is 15% higher than the national average. People rely more on their private vehicles, whether they are driving kids at school, going to the workplace, shopping, for leisure activities or other errands.
While private vehicles are still the easiest choice for moving between rural towns and villages, the lack of an extensive public transport network doesn’t help. In many rural areas, public transport alternative is not even an option. In other cases, the lack of reliability, suitable timetables, proper advertisement and signalling, and not least the high trip price, discourage the use of buses and trains.
The situation could be improved if there was a review of rural bus fleets and timetables together with the launch of a car-sharing/carpooling platform, State-backed to build user trust.
Basically, we are talking about the equivalent emissions of more than 9,000 cars!
WindFarms are still very debated in Ireland. Although some may argue that noise from the turbines is significant and interferes with day to day life, many researchers combat this idea. It has been proven that the perceived noise from the turbines depends on the individual and how sensitive their hearing is.
Furthermore, noise perception is directly linked with the person’s acceptance of the turbines. Those who are against wind development tend to be more annoyed by their presence than those who favour Wind Energy.
Wetlands are a strategic but often overlooked ally in the fight against the climate crisis. They are extraordinary pieces of hybrid land, a life rich realm suspended between water and soil. The most familiar wetland type in this part of Ireland is the blanket bog. Only a small portion of mountain bogs are found to be in good health in Leitrim, the rest being in poor maintenance conditions.
Bogs provide many valuable ecosystem services, such as water retention, water filtration, biodiversity and carbon storage. Peat forming takes time: 1mm per year, about the same rate of growth as coral. Humans have been exploiting the bogs for centuries for another service they provide: fuel.
Other than ecological reasons, nowadays there are many sanitary reasons not to disturb bogs: burning peat releases a lot of toxic compounds that harm the human respiratory system. A bog that has been turf-cut loses its carbon-storing function, turning into a net emitter. If we leave the bogs intact (planting trees on them is one of the most pernicious things to do) and we engage in rewetting efforts, they will build up peat once again, returning to their natural state.
A lot of farmers in the North-West part of Ireland, including Leitrim, integrate regenerative agriculture practices and sustainability in their day-by-day activities, sometimes unknowingly.
In other words, they help nature to regenerate with their inherited role as custodians of ecological equilibria. For example, around 80% of farmland in Leitrim is deemed to be Hign Nature Value, which means it enhances biodiversity and has a very low environmental footprint. Despite the high environmental results, this low-impact system of farming is not fostered (enough) by European policies and investment.
During the current CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) 5 years period, money massively accrued to big agro-industry representatives while small and medium farmers were squeezed more and more out of the market by aggressive and unfair competition. The new 2021-2026 CAP current draft (under scrutiny) does not seem to amend such distortion, discounting citizens’ right to safe food, good health and the clean environment to profit-seeking influent groups.
40,000 tons CO2 is about half of what is emitted annually by Leitrim households. With the strength of the wind blowing over Ireland, the country should be a leader in onshore and offshore wind energy production. Commissioning and licencing regulations need to be eased for the sector to shift gear and favour community projects and mini plants.
Big scale wind farms have been under the fire of criticism from local communities; more transparency and broader public consultation are demanded in the planning phase, as well as assessing the social and ecological risks when choosing the construction site. Moreover, companies should provide evidence that the sourcing of the materials involved in the manufacturing is compliant with human rights conventions and environmental safeguard principles. The same applies to the decommissioning of end-of-life farms. Catch the right winds!
According to the BER (Building Energy Rating) database, Leitrim houses are older than the national average and more heat leaking. For example, G rated houses (the most energy-wasting) are 12% of the stock, compared with 7% at the national level.
On the other hand, there are no A or B1 rated houses. This results in Leitrim houses consuming 27% heating energy per square meter compared to the national average. Huge efforts are asked to the residential sector: if we are serious about reaching climate neutrality by mid-century, housing sector emissions must be more than halved.
The good news is that being so inefficient, there is a great margin for retrofitting improvements, but householders must see the incentives of the upgrades.
The transport sector is the second-largest carbon-emitting sector in County Leitrim, 22% of the total, with private transport responsible for more than half of the emissions. People’s reliance on cars is very high and doesn’t hint at a possible decrease. Over time people have also shown a preference for bigger and more polluting engines.
The average age of cars is quite old (8 years) and the vehicle fleet is nearly all based on the internal combustion engine, with diesel cars being the majority (62%). Electric or hybrid cars number less than 1%.
While electric vehicles are a solution to avoid local emissions, transport policies should aim at reducing the number of privately-owned cars of any type, compensating with support for more public transport and more shared mobility.
This trade-off has to be addressed in land use planning. Commercially exploited Sitka Spruce monocultures have been the object of severe criticism by environmentally-concerned groups in Leitrim and bordering counties. Extensive monocultures, in fact, cause biodiversity loss, and alteration of the nutrients cycle in the environment, as well as the decrease of ecosystem services.
In addition, concerns are locally raised on the effects of abrupt land-use change on indigenous rural practices and culture, overuse of fertilisers and related impacts on water quality. However, the North-West American species is a profitable financial asset, as a cash crop destinated to timber market and as an income diversification strategy for farmers. A Sitka Spruce plantation can be worth up to 566 euro/ha/year, and Leitrim happens to have the perfect soil-climate combination for it to grow fast. High-yield Sitka Spruces are high performers in removing carbon from the atmosphere, but since they are logged, only part of the carbon absorbed by the plant trickles down into the soil (most of it stays locked-in the timber).
In the long run, native woodland or close-to-nature mixed plantation show better results in terms of overall ecosystem services and building up soil organic carbon.
Cróga means “Brave” in Irish and is the acronym of “Climate-Resilient Opportunities for Generations Ahead”.
Cróga is the ongoing GEAI climate action initiative.
Cróga does independent research, facilitates inclusive community dialogue and animates bottom-up policies and actions. The aim is to pave the way for a Just Transition to a Net-Zero county that enhance the livelihoods of present and future rural communities.
Cróga is the first initiative of its kind, employing an original county-centred methodology to account and tackle our Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions, domestically. The same methodology is transferrable to other sub-national areas.