Jump to content

At the global climate change conference in Paris this week, Enda Kenny received heavy criticism from the environmental lobby due to comments related to agriculture in his keynote address. The divisive approach adopted by certain green organisations is totally unhelpful. We need an inclusive approach which recognises farmers as part of the solution, not the problem.

The reality is that Ireland faces a huge challenge in meeting its climate change targets for 2020 and beyond. Irish agriculture is in the firing line due to the makeup of our economy, whereby we have less heavy industry as a proportion compared to other nations’ economies.  The agricultural sector is not seeking a free pass, just some common sense to be applied.

The criticism directed towards the Taoiseach was totally unwarranted. In his remarks, he pointed out that as a nation we are making great efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of our livestock production. This is a fact. The EU’s joint research centre has produced independent analysis showing that our dairy sector is the most carbon efficient in Europe and our beef sector is among the top 5. The Origin Green programme and the use of the Carbon Navigator is underpinning efforts to further improve the carbon intensity of Irish food production.

The Paris Conference is expected to recognise the importance of food security. This is an important and welcome development. The global population will rise dramatically to 9.7 billion by 2050 and to over 11 billion by 2100. Demand for food is expected to increase by 50% within the next 30 years, while at the same time crop yields may reduce by 25% due to the harmful effects of climate change. This is a worrying global picture. However, Ireland can play a positive role as we currently feed over 35 million people worldwide, with high quality, sustainable and carbon efficient food.

When negotiations conclude in Paris, attention in the New Year will quickly turn to the European Commission, as they will publish new draft legislation covering the non-traded economic sectors such as agriculture. The Commission will set out greenhouse gas reduction targets to be achieved post 2020.

In order to fully support the sustainable intensification of Irish agriculture, it is essential that the conclusions reached by EU leaders in October 2014 are fully incorporated into these legislative proposals, recognising the limited mitigation potential within agriculture, the importance of food security and the need to account for land use, land use change and forestry.

By Eamonn Farrell

Agri & Food Policy Executive