'Wake up and wake up soon' - Hogan's warning on climate
Ireland will face massive fines unless it improves its environmental performance, European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan has starkly warned.
Speaking at the Department of Agriculture's Food Wise conference in Dublin yesterday, Mr Hogan said Ireland needed to "wake up and wake up soon" to the reality that it was part of a European Union that had 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," warned the commissioner.
Mr Hogan said there was a gulf between Ireland's "welcome rhetoric and the operational reality" - citing that Ireland was one of only four countries in the EU where greenhouse gas emissions were still above 1990 levels.
"Failure to tackle this issue could cost the country large sums of money in relation to carbon credits by 2020," he said.
"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."
Mr Hogan went on to say that the agriculture sector here urgently needed to step up to the plate and deliver on environmental issues.
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.
"Take, for example, the Netherlands as a cautionary tale," said Mr Hogan.
"The Dutch dairy industry has been dealing with a phosphorus problem for the past year which has led 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 needed to 'reboot' its afforestation policy and start making "real headway".
At the very minimum, Mr Hogan stressed that it was essential that the afforestation targets set out in the forestry programme should be fully met.