Agriculture has been given special status in the latest EU targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40pc by 2030.
The deal agreed by the European Council in Brussels last Friday sees no specific targets assigned for greenhouse gas reductions in the agriculture sector. Instead, it commits the European Commission to developing policies that will encourage the sustainable intensification of production.
The deal is a boost for Irish farmers planning to expand dairy production following next year's abolition of quotas.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said: "Ireland has been a clear leader for some time at EU level in calling for recognition of the specific issues that arise in the agriculture and forestry sector in relation to policy on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
"When we started raising this issue with the Commission and other Member States we were alone in doing so. We have succeeded in persuading others through the force of our arguments, based on sound science and the proven record of Irish agriculture in producing meat, dairy and other products with a low and improving carbon footprint."
Minister Coveney said that the agreement is "a vital recognition that we must not seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing sustainable food production."
He added this was consistent with the Food Harvest 2020 strategy's focus on sustainability and growth. "We are leading the world in some of our climate change actions, including carbon foot printing our farmers, and we are building further on this in the measures in our new Rural Development Programme 2014-2020."
Last week's agreement was also welcomed by the farm organisations. IFA president Eddie Downey said 'the outcome provides a framework that can safeguard Ireland's carbon-efficient agriculture sector".
ICMSA president John Comer said the agreement is is a "rational policy that recognises that climate change is a global problem and that climate change policy should not place unnecessary and counter-productive barriers on food production in carbon efficient countries."