Cara Augustenborg would like to talk more about emissions from transport rather than agriculture. The environmental scientist spoke at the Irish Tillage and Land Use Society’s (ITLUS’s) conference on Wednesday evening, December 4.

“What’s happening in transport with respect to emissions increases in Ireland is very worrying. The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has projected that emissions from transport will increase to somewhere around 120% from pre-economic collapse times to 2020,” the environmental scientist stated.

“We haven’t heard much about that in the media. I think that the agriculture versus environment debate has kind of been used as a shield that really hasn’t held the transport sector accountable for this worrying trend in transport.”

Need a focus on tillage

Augustenborg was critical of the Government’s Climate Action Plan, stating that it was strong on energy, but poor on transport and agriculture.

Commenting on the decline in arable land she saw missed opportunities in Irish agriculture, noting that the focus on intensification needs to move to seeing agriculture in a multi-functional way – producing food, benefiting the environment and contributing to rural livelihoods.

Right now we’re importing an astonishing amount of feed for our animals – four million tonnes last year.

“A lot of it is coming from places like Brazil and Argentina, contributing to rain forest destruction in those areas. If we could become less reliant on foreign imports for our animal feed and say that our animal feed was really coming from an indigenous sector that would be a real opportunity to brand our products in a more sustainable way.

Really what’s missing from the plan is any focus on tillage.

“It’s very much we will continue to intensify, particularly dairy, because that’s where the money is. We’ll use some strategies to try and make emissions from that sector more efficient and then we’ll offset the rest with forestry and the forestry sector has said they themsleves don’t know how they will offset all of these emissions.”

Augustenborg stated that more joined up thinking is needed in the agricultural sector.