Irish agriculture is not doing enough on climate change - Green Party Leader

'We can’t keep calling Irish agriculture efficient when emissions are rising'

Eamon Ryan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Eamon Ryan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Members of the Oireachtais Climate Action committee have hit out at the Department of Agriculture for “not being ambitious enough” when it comes to reducing agriculture emissions.

Agriculture currently accounts for over 33pc of overall emissions in Ireland.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan told representatives of the Department of Agriculture  at an Oireachtais 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.

Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin called on the Department to “prioritise certain home truths around agriculture” and urged that it reassesses its FoodWise 2025 targets to increase production to €19bn.

Labour TD Sean Sherlock also pointed out the need for “greater urgency” on reducing emissions.

Department of Agriculture Secretary General Brendan Gleeson acknowledged that the industry “needs to do more” but that it should not back down on its ambitions to increase production.

“There’s a fixation on the target, when we talk about ambition it is an ambition that has been set by the industry for itself with broad approval. There is some commentary saying we should resign from that ambition but we need to focus on ambition and do it in way that doesn’t exacerbate emissions,” he said.

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“We need to do more, we accept that, but it’s complex stuff. There’s a variety of economic and social considerations that doesn’t obviate the need for agriculture to make positive contributions but we need to stop the negativity around agriculture if we want to bring farmers with us.”

Mr Gleeson also told members of the committee that the Irish dairy setcor is the most efficient in Europe and if Ireland was to reduce its dairy herd demand would be filled less efficiently elsewhere.

“If more needs to be done in lets say dairy sector it would require you to take a perverse step to reduce production in the most efficient milking system in world.”

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.

When asked by Mr Ryan if  a carbon tax should be introduced in the sector, Mr Gleeson said he would not “agree or disagree with a policy that may not arise” but that “you have to ask yourself are there alternative options (to a carbon tax) to get farmers to improve or change their behaviour”

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