Ireland can be a global leader in sustainable farming, according to a new survey by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the RDS.

Some 86% of respondents said that establishing Irish leadership on climate-smart agriculture could benefit the agri-food sector.

However, it also found that with the Government aiming to boost the value of Irish agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion over the next decade, 80% of respondents said meeting these objectives is made challenging by our EU obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Domestic action, according to the survey, is key to establishing a leadership position on climate-smart agriculture.

Respondents identified better use of fertiliser, boosting research and innovation, and optimising land use as among the most important success factors.

Almost nine out of 10 respondents said economically and environmentally optimising our land resource, between dairy, beef, tillage and forestry, is a key climate-smart strategy.

The national sample, which included non-government organisations (NGOs), government, agri-business, researchers and farmers, identified the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture as important for Ireland:

  • Increasing farm incomes and productivity.
  • Reducing emissions.
  • Building resilience to climate impacts.

However, the survey also found there is no clear global leader on climate-smart agriculture, with Holland slightly ahead of Ireland, UK, USA and New Zealand, according to the international sample.

Some 83% of respondents in the international sample agreed climate-smart agriculture was equally applicable in developed and developing countries.

However, international experts believe developing countries should focus on building resilience to the impact of climate change, followed by boosting productivity and farm incomes, according to the survey.

In developed nations, the sample identifies cutting greenhouse gas emissions as the most important pillar, followed by building resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Tom Arnold, the IIEA’s Director General, said that it hopes that the CSA Leadership Forum will catalyse new thinking on climate-smart agriculture, with a shift towards more sustainable environmental and economic solutions for an industry whose scale is domestic and global.

Matt Dempsey, President of the RDS, added that the focus on farm incomes, climate resilience and mitigation is the triple-win at the heart of Climate Smart-Agriculture, future-proofing Irish agriculture for the years to come.

“Our leadership forum has opened up to Irish and international experts in an attempt to find a sustainable solution that works in policy and in practice,” he said.