Farmers and rural Ireland support climate action – but full engagement will be needed with farmers on any proposals, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
Any proposed changes arising from the new Climate Action Bill must be agreed upon with farmers, IFA president Tim Cullinan stressed.
“I believe that the vast majority of Irish citizens are proud of our farming and the food we produce and want to see the sector continuing to flourish sustainably,” he said.
“There are several important provisions in the new Climate Bill that policymakers will have to consider, which will protect the farming sector.
The IFA president was speaking as part of his opening address to the Smart Farming Spring seminar this morning (Thursday, April 22), a collaborative programme in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that works with farmers to support change at farm level.
The IFA said it has been engaging at all levels to “ensure that farming is treated fairly in the climate action process”.
The organisation highlighted a point in the new Climate Bill which states that, in implementing the bill, the minister “shall” have regard to “the special economic and social role of agriculture including with regards to the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane”.
It also says that the minister shall have regard to the risk of “carbon leakage”, resulting in more emissions in other countries as a result of reductions.
Commenting on this, Cullinan said: “Our grass-based production systems is extremely efficient from a carbon perspective.
“It makes no sense to drive food production elsewhere, which will certainly result in carbon leakage as global food demand is increasing.
“The minister is required to take this into account when framing any new targets,” he said.
Cullinan said that the suggestion in some quarters that the number of cattle in Ireland will reduce by 51% due to the Climate Bill is nonsense.
Continuing, the president noted: “The draft agri-food strategy published at the weekend proposes a 10% reduction in biogenic methane.
“This target will be very challenging, but I believe that we can achieve this by adapting practices and developing technology while still developing our sector.”
“The key issue in the weeks and months ahead is that there is full engagement with farmers on any proposals.
“It’s easy to set targets, but they must be realistic and achievable and strike the right balance between the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and social,” he concluded.