A climate change action plan is needed for Irish agriculture, according to 2014 Nuffield scholar Mary Delaney, who also said that the sector also needs a spokesperson on climate change.

Presenting her recommendations at the recent Nuffield conference, she said that with global agriculture needing to feed 9.6bn people by 2050, Ireland must also look to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions by 70% by 2050.

Within dairy farming in Ireland, cows belching accounts for 44% of methane emissions, she said, and one dairy cow emits the equivalent CO2 emissions of one family car.

The message around Greenhouse Gas emissions and methane emissions, she said has to be managed as it is stark message.

She cited her travels to the Netherlands, which has scale, intensification and strong governance. “They are very mindful of protecting their public image as the pig and poultry industries have had negative issues.”

She said that while New Zealand has a world class grass-based system of farming and scale, their 11,500 dairy farmers are facing significant challenges as agriculture is responsible for 48% of the country’s total emissions (Irish agriculture accounts for approximately 33% of Irish emissions) – the highest figure in the world.

Ireland, she said, has the most efficient dairy farming system in the EU and a family farm structure, which is very positive for our public image.

But it’s not enough, she said. “We need to take control and demonstrate our commitment to take action. It must be all inclusive and representative, as well as incorporating R&D, communication and support.”

She said that there must be a frame work to measure on farm emissions and a spokesperson should be appointed to speak on climate change on behalf of the agricultural sector.

“We need to be communicating with society, NGOs, the media and farming peers have a huge opportunity to add to this whole discussion.”