European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan issued a stark warning that Ireland will face massive fines unless it improves its environmental performance.
Speaking at the Department of Agriculture’s Food Wise conference in Dublin, Hogan said Ireland needs to ‘wake up and wake up soon’ to the reality that it is part of a European Union that has assumed the role of global leader in tackling climate challenges.
“The day is gone when we can pay lip service to sustainability and climate action,” he warned.
Hogan said there is a gulf between Ireland’s ‘welcome rhetoric and the operational reality’ citing that Ireland is one of only four countries in the EU where greenhouse gas emissions are still above 1990 levels.
“Failure to tackle this issue could cost the country large sums of money in relation to carbon credits by 2020.
“We are sleepwalking towards further EU fines under the renewable energy directive
“The risks of failing to address our environmental challenges are not abstract they are real and can be counted in hard currency,” he warned.
Hogan went on to say that the agriculture sector urgently needs to step up to the plate and deliver on the environment.
Last week official figures showed a 3.5pc increase in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in 2016. A new report also showed that Ireland is one of only four countries in the EU where greenhouse gas emissions are still above 1990 levels.
“If I take for example the Netherlands as a cautionary tale.
“The Dutch dairy industry has been dealing with a phosphorus problem for the past year which has lead to the slaughter of 50,000 cows to meet targets.
“We don’t want the Irish situation to be like that in the future, so we have to plan properly,” he warned.
“Improved environmental management on farms through improved nutrient management, enhanced use of precision agriculture can make a difference.
The Commissioner said Ireland needs to ‘reboot’ is afforestation policy and start making ‘real headway’.
At the very minimum, Hogan stressed that it is essential that the afforestation targets set out in the forestry programme should be fully met.