EPA on agri emissions: ‘We need to see sustainable growth in agriculture’

Agriculture is expanding in Ireland – but this needs to happen in a sustainable way and not at the expense of the environment, according to Dr. Eimear Cotter, of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Dr. Cotter, the EPA’s director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, was speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland this morning, Thursday, October 24, on the news that agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018.

“It is a sector that’s growing; that’s expanding – and that needs to happen in a sustainable way and not at the expense of the environment – not at the expense of greenhouse gas emissions and air quality, biodiversity, water quality.

We need to see sustainable growth in the agricultural sector and the plans and the measures that are set out in the Climate Action Plan which are underpinned by extensive research from agricultural experts in Teagasc, now need to be implemented to get us on course to the pathway that we need to be on.

Commenting on dairy expansion in particular, Dr. Cotter said: “As our dairy cow numbers increase, our emissions are increasing.

“What we need to do is look at what’s set out in our Climate Action Plan; we have a plan in place for the country – we have a roadmap set out.

“We’ve done the analysis and research about what needs to happen in terms of being more efficient, for example on how we use fertilisers, looking at how we manage manure, looking at animal production – these are the areas that we set out,” she said.

‘Just transition’

Turning to “Just Transition” in climate action, the director warned that people’s livelihoods – including farmers – “will be affected” going forward, adding that these will need to be supported.

“This really gets to the difficult piece of climate change where we need to have an equitable and a Just Transition.

People will be affected; livelihoods will be affected and they need to be supported and supported through that transition, be it in the midlands, in different industries, be it the farming community – and be it people ourselves as we work through this transition.

“So it’s not about ignoring those aspects; it’s about recognising those aspects, having those conversations.

“The EPA, we run a national dialogue on behalf of the Government to encourage these conversations at a regional and local level so that people can put forward their concerns and their solutions,” Dr. Cotter concluded.