'Cow numbers may be limited if agriculture doesn't step up its efforts to meet climate targets'
The Government could be forced to restrict farming expansion if Ireland is to avoid massive EU fines for not meeting its targets on emissions reduction.
In the starkest assessment to date on the impact dairy and beef expansion is having on emissions levels, new research from Teagasc indicates that climate change targets could become the new quota system for farmers.
Even allowing for the impact of extensive mitigation measures, Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions post-2020 will be higher than the 2005 levels the EU uses as its benchmark.
With agriculture accounting for one-third of Ireland’s total GHG emissions, the Government may have to set limits on agricultural growth targets, particularly in the dairy sector.
“Even with all the efforts made, emissions will still be higher than 2005 levels. We could find ourselves in a situation where the Government says that agriculture isn’t reducing emissions, isn’t playing its part, and it (the Government) will decide to limit the size of the agriculture sector,” said
Trevor Donnellan, one of the co-authors of the Teagasc analysis presented at a Department of Agriculture conference on sustainable farming last week.
“Nobody has said this out loud, but unless the sector is seen to make a reduction and grapple with the problem, it will be seen as the bad guy,” Mr Donnellan told the Farming Independent.
“There’s a concern out there that the Government might put a limit on the amount of cows in the country and this poses a risk for farmers looking to expand. Co-ops won’t build new plants because they would be afraid that a limit would be placed on cow numbers.