Food Wise 2025 targets may need to be revised – Kelly

Ireland’s ambitions under Food Wise 2025 may need to be revised in order to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, Irish MEP Sean Kelly has warned.

Speaking just days after a comprehensive EU report found that Ireland is the second worst member state in the EU to tackle climate change, the Fine Gael representative of Ireland South outlined the challenges this harsh reality may pose to Ireland’s international reputation in terms of agri-food trade.

Addressing a delegation of Irish journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels today, Kelly also cautioned against the drive towards dairy expansion.

‘Laggards’

Kelly described the findings of the report as “extremely disappointing” and “definitely not good enough”, but he did mention that he was not “totally surprised”.

Continuing, the MEP stated: “Ireland is seen as one of the laggards in Europe on climate change.

We trade internationally on our lovely, green, clean image – so obviously the two don’t meet and we have to change.

“To be the second lowest in Europe is not good enough; it means that we have taken our eye off the ball a bit. But, in fairness, the Taoiseach mentioned that when he came to the parliament in January; he admitted that we are laggards, so I expect a rapid change in actions and in attitude in the future.

“In fairness, Fine Gael has only been in office since 2011. [The party] came in at a time when the economic crisis was very bad and it had to correct that – so it will probably be given a certain amount of leeway in that regard,” he said.

However, Kelly outlined that Ireland has important obligations to meet and that the time for excuses has now passed.

Food Wise 2025 targets

During today’s meeting in Brussels, Kelly was asked if Ireland’s plans for growth in the agri-sector – as set out in Food Wise 2025 – are completely at odds with the country’s climate change obligations.

Commenting on the matter, he said: “I think it’s something that has to be taken into consideration in the overall picture – because you have to see how it fits in with the overall plan for 2030; we have targets now because of the clean energy package here in Europe, which will be monitored at European level.

I think our targets for Food Wise 2025 might be a small bit ambitious; reducing them a little bit might not affect the profitability of Irish agriculture – but, clearly, it would help on the overall emissions targets.

“From an environment point of view, and indeed from a profit point of view, pushing too hard in relation to expansion might not be the best thing to do.

“We should certainly reassess the targets under 2025 – and I know there is a lot of work being done by Teagasc to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Origin Green

On the topic of Origin Green – and the emerging “contradiction” given Ireland’s current performance on climate action in the EU – Kelly was blunt.

There is a contradiction there and, actually, it will start doing us damage – because our competitors will start using this now.

“They’ll say: ‘Origin Green? Yet, you are the second worst in Europe in terms of climate change – it doesn’t add up.’

“So I think we really have to send out a statement that says: ‘Yes, we didn’t meet our targets – but we are going to be the best in Europe from now on.’

There needs to be an admission of defeat.

“In terms of agriculture, it is still as traceable and as good as ever – but we need to be prepared for the hard questions,” he concluded.