IFA seeks Government support to re-examine calculation of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

  • Agriculture currently accounts for over 33pc of overall emissions in Ireland
  • Environmental groups claim reduction in emissions impossible without reducing cattle numbers
  • Farmers warn their economic reality “no less serious” than environmental reality
Agriculture currently accounts for over 33pc of overall emissions in Ireland
Agriculture currently accounts for over 33pc of overall emissions in Ireland
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

In a new climate change submission to the Government, the Irish Farmers Association has sought a re-examination of the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney said, the submission restates IFA’s opposition to further carbon taxes on the sector, which are directly impacting on farming’s competitiveness without reducing climate emissions.

He said the submission also highlights what he describes as the multiple and sometimes competing roles that farmers have as food, fuel and energy producers, while he says at the same time they are being required to enhance the environment.

“Farmers in Ireland have a proud record as carbon efficient food producers. We can and will do more, particularly in the resource efficiency and renewables areas.

“However, this depends on strong Government support and a fully funded CAP to meet the increased environmental and climate requirements.”

IFA has called on Government to re-examine the climate metrics applied when calculating methane, given the short-lived behaviour of methane in the atmosphere.

It also wants C02 emission reductions through natural carbon sinks, such as forests and permanent pastures, should be included in the overall measurement of the contribution of emissions from the sector.

Agriculture currently accounts for over 33pc of overall emissions in Ireland. Earlier this year, Ireland committed to reducing its emissions by 30pc by 2030. In 2017 the Citizens Assembly recommended for a carbon tax to be introduced in agriculture to incentivise emissions reduction.

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The move is likely to draw ire of environmental campaigners. Just last week, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan told representatives of the Department of Agriculture at an Oireachtas meeting that it can’t keep calling Irish agriculture efficient when emissions are rising.

“The truth is agriculture emissions are rising and there are no plans to cut them. We are not ambitious enough on what we are doing. Let’s not go with this story that we are the most efficient. Farmers are not served well in current systems, it’s the PLCs and not the people who are benefitting,” he said.

Environmental groups have also been heavily critical of the expansion of the Irish dairy sector which they claim is sabotaging Ireland’s ability to meet our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

An Taisce has called for an immediate impact assessment of climate change and sustainability targets be undertaken of the Goverment's agri-food sector strategy FoodWise 2025. This it says must focus on reducing total sector emissions, which it claims is almost certainly impossible without reducing cattle numbers.

Meanwhile, dairy farmer and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President, Pat McCormack, said that Minister Bruton was correct in facing the CO2 reductions problem ‘head-on’.

However, he cautioned against theories which had farming and commercial food production as a “problem that could not be part of the solution” and moved Ireland into what Mr McCormack said was a completely false either/or choice where we ‘either’ have a commercial farming and food production sector and excessive carbon production, ‘or’ we dismantle our farming and food production sectors, meet our carbon reduction targets, but wipe out the economic basis of most of the state outside the cities and larger towns.

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