Minister and farming leaders on a climate change collision course
Irish farming a global leader on sustainability - ICMSA
AGRICULTURE Minister Michael Creed has received little support from farm leaders for his proposal that farmers needed to plant more marginal land to offset GHG emissions.
ICSA president Patrick Kent rejected suggestions that every farmer should be obliged to plant forestry to avoid climate change penalties.
"If Irish farmers put more land into forestry and reduce meat production, Brazil will take more land out of forestry and increase meat production," he said.
"Worse still, the world loses the hugely beneficial Amazon rainforest and we replace it with blanket Sitka plantations, which in the long run are a very dubious method of combating climate change. Properly managed grasslands sequester carbon every year while at the same time feeding the people of Europe and further afield," Mr Kent said.
The ICMSA's Pat McCormack said it defied logic to look at Irish GHG emissions in isolation from other relevant factors such as food security.
"When all the material data is looked at and factored-in then, across all the measurables, Irish dairy and beef production is demonstrably amongst the most environmentally sustainable on the planet," Mr McCormack said.
"We also know that farmers can play a hugely productive role in climate change mitigation if properly incentivised - roof top solar is a perfect example - and Government policy needs to very quickly focus on these positives," he added.
IFA maintained that the ambition of the farm sector had to be much wider than just planting trees.
"We need to see a coherent Government plan that will harness the bio-energy potential that exists," IFA stated.
Meanwhile, the environmental group An Taisce said that while it supports efforts to increase afforestation in Ireland, it questioned both the type of forest planted and how it was managed.
Pointing out that Sitka Spruce was of "almost zero ecological value", John Gibbons of An Taisce called for a longer-term approach to forestry policy.
"In order for forestry to play a meaningful role in climate mitigation, these forests need to be left standing for many decades in order to draw down and hold atmospheric carbon dioxide," Mr Gibbons explained.
"Simply treating forestry as timber to be cut and burned in 10-20 years means it contributes zero to emissions reductions," he said.
Mr Gibbons said the Government also needed to encourage more planting of native broadleaf forestry.
"Native broadleaf forestry would enhance our countryside, unlike the dark, uninviting Sitka Spruce monoculture woods. This would open tourism options, as well as being a massive boost to biodiversity. Farmers should be incentivised to be part of the solution, not part of the problem of climate change," he said.
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