‘We cannot be continuously judged on our past record’

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has said that Ireland must “redouble its sustainability efforts” in order to meet its 2030 carbon emission targets.

His comments follow findings from a new EU report which ranked Ireland as the second-poorest member state to take action on climate change.

This latest league table positioning has raised some concerns over the ability of Ireland to pursue its agri-food growth targets; while simultaneously achieving its goals to reduce emissions.

Also Read: Ireland ranked 2nd worst member state in EU climate action report

Speaking to AgriLand at Bord Bia’s 2018 Brexit Barometer event this morning (Thursday, June 21), the minister reiterated his commitment to Origin Green and Food Wise 2025.

When asked for his response to the finding that Ireland is one of the worst EU offenders on tackling climate threats, Minister Creed said: “There’s little point in getting into the 2020 targets that were established long before this Government, or the previous government, or indeed when the 2011 government came into office.

Targets

“Those that set them did little at the time to take into account where the industry was; or indeed to prepare for meeting those targets. What we’re really focused on now is meeting our 2030 obligations.

We know that those 2020 targets won’t be met. But, we’re absolutely committed.

“There’s no pass for any part of the industry in terms of that national endeavour because the consequences are pretty significant in terms of financial fines.

“So, notwithstanding the fact that if you take our dairy industry, for example, it has pretty good sustainability credentials. Nonetheless emissions in the dairy sector are going up,” the minister noted.

The dairy industry in terms of its future ambitions to expand – and it has the potential to do so – will have to do a lot more in that space – as will all other sectors in the agricultural industry.

“And that will be part of the CAP negotiations, it will be part of the climate change fund that was launched yesterday, and it’ll be a national endeavour. The food industry will obviously be a part of that too; as will the farm industry.”

‘Significant challenges’

When asked about comments from Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, Sean Kelly, who this week cautioned that the Government may need to revise its Food Wise 2025 targets in light of the ranking and concerns that competitors may now ask some “hard questions” of the country’s “Origin Green” image, the minister replied: “Well look, we face significant challenges.

“We face that climate change challenge, we face the Brexit challenge, the international trading environment is kind of more unstable than it has been for quite a while. There’s also the Trump administration and trade wars.

If you take the political uncertainty across the Euro zone in Germany, Italy and Spain, having a road map like Food Wise is really, really important because we can benchmark our progress and we can take into account all of the issues.

“If we take the five pillars of the Food Wise report – one of the pillars is sustainability, and why would we throw away a report that, at its heart, is about improving the sustainability credentials?” the minister asked.

“Origin Green is a part of that – it’s not the full story, but it’s part of that.

“And we will need to redouble our efforts on sustainability. But I don’t think that’s a reason to throw away our ambitious targets for the industry.”

International perspective

Finally, when asked if he is concerned that there will be an impact from an international perspective, Minister Creed said: “I would hope not”.

He elaborated, saying: “I know when we go on trade missions that we are recognised as a producer of high-quality, nutritious, traceable food.

“Increasingly our sustainability credentials are becoming established – particularly in the higher-end value-added markets that we want to be in.

What’s important is what we are doing now; we cannot be continuously judged against our past record.

“Our ambition is very clearly stated in terms of what they’re doing in Origin Green; what we will have to do in terms of CAP negotiations; and in terms of substantially aligning the Common Agricultural Policy with climate change policies.

“It’s one of those things I think will reinforce and advance our sustainability credentials,” the minister concluded.