Former TD: Wind could offset all of Ireland’s agri-emissions

A former TD and European Parliament President has said that wind energy produced here could offset all of Ireland’s agriculture emissions.

Pat Cox, a former Cork-South Central TD, and president of the European Parliament from 2002 to 2004, was speaking on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk today (Friday, February 8), where he also praised Irish farmers for their efforts on climate mitigation.

“Could we offset the carbon footprint of Irish agriculture today? The answer is yes we could. We have the best wind resources in Europe, to do with wind speeds and wind constancy offshore. It’s estimated that we have between 15 and 25 gigawatts of potential,” said Cox.

If Ireland harvested that wind, and exported [the wind energy] to a third country, up to a degree of five gigawatts, that would be the equivalent carbon offset of the entire output of Irish agriculture, and it would make €50 to €60 million per terawatt exported.

Cox added that: “We need to get creative about net carbon reduction.”

He also explained that the total level of emissions of Irish agriculture have gone up, but only because herd sizes have increased.

However, methane output per animal is going down which, he added, points to positive climate-mitigation practices by Irish farmers.

“Well done to the people who were working on that bit, because that bit is actually turning up in the numbers,” said Cox.

Cox complimented what he called the “brilliant work” done by Teagasc, farm advisors, dairy co-ops and farmers on the climate issue.

The former journalist and politician claimed that Ireland was a “leading example in Europe” for the way it has reduced methane output.

Nature’s gift of grass

Cox argued that, in part’s of the world where agricultural emissions are in a “crisis” situation, most animals are grain fed, adding that it takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of meat.

“It’s a very inefficient way of getting your protein. In our case, we’re not processing grain into meat; we are actually using nature’s gift of grass and managing the paddock system and so on,” he said.

Cox also said that the climate debate needed to change to reflect the fact that Irish agriculture is making a contribution to climate mitigation.

“We need a degree of balance in our Irish debate to understand that good people are doing some good things. We do need to look at how we de-carbonise by other roots for offsets to lift a degree of pressure, some of which will be excessive,” he concluded.