‘Irish agriculture is the least climate-efficient in Europe’

The dominance of livestock farming has led to the Irish agriculture sector becoming the least climate-efficient in Europe, according to An Taisce.

This result reflects the dominance of beef and dairy systems in Ireland, it added.

An Taise was responding to claims from the IFA that ‘Environmental NGOs are engaged in a continuous campaign of undermining the agri-food sector’.

Also Read: Selective Misrepresentation of Research by Environmental NGOs Undermines Their Credibility

The Irish NGO believes the IFA ‘completely misrepresented‘ both the research in question and the response of environmental NGOs to its findings.

It is believed the IFA had taken issue with a document recently published by the European Parliament; which is entitled: ‘Research for AGRI Committee – Policy support for productivity versus sustainability in EU agriculture: Towards viable farming and green growth’.

This document examined the average agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) production in the EU between 2012 and 2014. The data collected reflects how much agricultural output value (in euro terms) is generated for every tonne of carbon dioxide (equivalent) emitted.

Table GHG

The best-performing country in the EU, Italy, achieved some €1,700 of agricultural output per tonne of emissions, the report shows.

The worst-performing country in the EU28 was Ireland, where less than €400 in agricultural output was achieved per tonne of carbon emitted.

GHG productivity is a widely-accepted indicator at international level to monitor green growth, according to the report.

‘Agriculture’s role in Ireland’s GHG emissions needs to be acknowledged’

An Taisce believes that the claims made by the IFA earlier this week “aim a direct attack on the integrity, motives and professionalism of Ireland’s environmental NGOs”. This is despite the fact that no NGO issued any formal statement relating to the research, it added.

The IFA’s highly-defensive response, apart from damaging the association’s own credibility, does not once acknowledge the role of agriculture in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Now, more than ever, there is a critical need to ensure research relating to climate change is communicated clearly and effectively.

“The IFA’s decision to dismiss this research by the European Parliament is, in itself, mis-representative,” a statement from An Taisce read.

Earlier this week, the IFA’s Environment Chairman said that NGOs “sit in judgement and criticism of the sustainable development of the agri-food sector; but provide absolutely no alternative coherent vision or plan for the sector”.

An Taisce believes it is ‘regrettable’ that the IFA reportedly refuses to engage with the environmental NGO sector.

Challenges in the future

Irish agriculture faces many challenges in the future, the greatest of which will be from climate change, a fact about which the IFA appears completely in denial, it added.

“It is in Ireland’s national interest to develop a climate-resilient, locally-based, sustainable model of food production that also plays its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are de-stabilising the global climate.

Irish agriculture can most effectively achieve this by a phased withdrawal from beef farming, as it accounts for a grossly disproportionate amount of our total national emissions.

“Such a realignment would also improve financial security for many farmers, as beef farming is currently only surviving in Ireland due to CAP transfers,” An Taisce said.

With Brexit on the horizon, a major question mark hangs over whether Irish farmers can still draw down CAP payments of over €1.5 billion annually, it added. It is even more questionable if this is to prop up the EU’s least climate-efficient system of agriculture, the Irish environmental NGO said.

“With EU fines amounting to hundreds of millions of euros per annum to start hitting in the 2020s – for our failure to reach legally mandated emissions targets – does the IFA expect ordinary taxpayers to bail out beef and dairy farmers for their high-emission practices?

“An Taisce believes it is time for a full and frank national dialogue on the future of food security and resilience on this island.

“One that moves past the ‘Origin Green’ slogans and addresses, for example, why Ireland has the second-lowest amount of its farmland dedicated to organic agriculture in the EU,” An Taisce said.

The environmental organisation claimed to be willing to participate in a constructive engagement on the matter.