Climate change doesn’t recognise international borders and action in this space is the responsibility of everyone – and Irish dairy needs to “step up and make a positive change” on this, according to Ornua CEO John Jordan.

Speaking to Agriland following the publication of the exporting giant’s 2020 financial results last week (Wednesday, April 21), Ornua CEO John Jordan commented on a range of topics.

Climate change challenge

Asked by Agriland about the topic of climate action and what Ornua is doing in this space, Jordan said:

“It’s hugely important on everyone’s agendas – and most importantly it’s on consumers’ agendas. Climate change doesn’t recognise international borders – so this is a responsibility for everybody.

“We are aligned and supportive of the climate action bill and that will bring in legal targets for us all to achieve.

“In Ireland, agriculture accounts for 35% of our greenhouse gas emissions – but I’m absolutely confident we at Ornua believe that Ornua, the co-ops and farmers together will step up and make a positive change here.”

Outlining his belief that nobody will shirk their responsibilities in terms of reaching those targets, the CEO cautioned: “We do need support, we need scientific help, we need investment, we need government support and we need to do this collectively.

“I would say, however, that it’s important to remember that Ireland is the most carbon-efficient producer of dairy products in the world.

“If there’s global trade of dairy, it goes back to climate change and the climate agenda not recognising borders.

“If it’s not produced in Ireland, the risk is it’s produced somewhere else. If you think of some of the big farm feedlots around the world, it makes far more sense to produce that dairy on Irish family farms, off a grass-based system where 90% of the water utilisation comes from rain.

“What are the alternatives – produce it in southern California?

“Other people talk of ‘alternative products’; I give the example of almond milk, or more appropriately almond juice – 80% of the world’s almonds are produced in California, which is in essence almost in desert conditions,” he continued.

“It takes almost 6,000L of water to produce 1L of almond juice – that’s not a sustainable alternative.

“The last comment I’d make, and this is one I’ve heard somebody else say: Irish farmers and their families are the original conservationists.

“They’re the original environmentalists – it’s in their interests that long-term, they have a business that is sustainable, that is viable and credible. And that’s about the land and the environment.

“I don’t think there’s anybody else who would take greater pride and responsibility in making change in line with whatever needs to be done,” the CEO asserted.

Ornua statistics

Quizzed by Agriland if he believes there are any short-term targets or actions that the dairy sector should be looking at, Jordan said:

“I think everybody needs to take some responsibility. In Ornua, if you look at the last five years, we’ve reduced our total emissions by 25% from 2016 to 2020.

“We’ve reduced our carbon intensity, which is the carbon per tonne of product, by 38%. And if you look at 2019 versus 2020, we’ve reduced our food waste by 29%.

“Are they big numbers in the overall scheme of things? Maybe they’re not – but it’s important that we all take responsibility.

“We all start to move the needle, and when you combine those collective actions, you start to see real change,” Jordan concluded.