Reduction of suckler herd would be 'cost-effective' says Climate Council

Suckler cow cut based on flawed logic -IFA

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Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Climate Council has said a reduction in the national suckler herd would be a cost-effective way of tackling Climate Change.

The Council which advises the government on policies to tackle climate change has given particular attention to the agricultural sector in this year’s Annual Review.

It claimed there is the potential for a substantial reduction in agricultural emissions while at the same time safeguarding farm incomes.

"This includes targeted measures to reduce the national herd, it said.

“Urgent actions are necessary in the Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use sectors. The Council recognises that opportunities exist to reduce emissions while providing multiple co-benefits to society.

"In recent years, the expansion of the national dairy herd has been the major contributor to increases in agricultural emissions.

"Reduction of the suckler herd would make an important and cost-effective contribution to mitigation, could support alternative land uses, such as afforestation, raise farm incomes and reduce exposure of the sector to external market shocks.”

The Council said emissions in Agriculture are projected to continue increasing to 2030 due to growing cattle numbers, increased fertiliser use and ongoing carbon losses from land.

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"If allowed to proceed unchecked, this would seriously undermine our ability to meet our 2030 target for a reduction in national emissions," it said.

"The forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will provide an opportunity to incentivise the necessary changes in the Agriculture sector and ensure a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, while at the same time safeguarding the financial well-being and security of farmers."

The council also highlighted that reversing the recent declines in afforestation rates is a priority for policy action.

"Many aspects of the national transition objective are contingent on an expanded and sustainable domestic forestry sector," it stressed.

IFA President Joe Healy described proposals as being based on the flawed logic of looking at emissions from food production on a single country basis.

The IFA President said, “The proposed cut in the herd takes no account of the economic or social consequences, particularly for areas where beef production is the backbone of the local economy, with cattle farmers spending over €1.5 billion each year on agri-inputs.

"Our farmers are amongst the most carbon efficient food producers in the world, because of our grass-based model of food production.

"Reducing the Irish suckler herd will result in an increase in global emissions, as beef would be produced in countries with less sustainable systems.  As I recently pointed out in our ongoing campaign of opposition to the proposed Mercosur trade deal, the Brazilians are felling the equivalent of a football pitch every minute, to meet international beef demand," he said.

Previously Ireland set a target of a 20pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. However current forecasts suggest that only a 1pc reduction will be delivered.

The Council also recommended that the carbon tax increase to €35 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent in Budget 2020, increasing to at least €80 per tonne by 2030.

The Council is an independent statutory body, established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. Its role is to review national climate policy and advise government on how Ireland can move to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society by 2050.

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