‘Sustainable intensification remains the most desirable way forward’

While the alleviation and reversal of climate change is critically important – and all sectors must play their part – a strategy of ‘sustainable intensification’ remains the most desirable way forward, a co-op representative has pointed out.

President of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), Michael Spellman, took this stance while addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action today, Wednesday, December 12.

Continuing, Spellman said: “Climate action mustn’t come at a disadvantage for Irish agriculture and rural Ireland.

Food production systems throughout the world will have to provide 70% more food to feed a global population, which is expected to exceed 11 billion people by the end of this century.

“We must produce more food, while conserving available land, water and energy resources.

“However, Ireland offers key advantages in this regard where, for example, the majority of output by Irish agriculture comes from milk and beef produced in a grassland environment.”

Spellman outlined that the possibilities for carbon mitigation are generally limited in agriculture compared to other economic sectors.

“Furthermore, we must continue to be acutely aware of the economic contribution which agriculture makes to the Irish economy where there is simply no other industry generating wealth, investment and jobs to such a significant scale in rural Ireland.”

The ICOS president quenched the suggestions of levying carbon taxes on Irish agriculture, as made earlier this year by the Citizens Assembly, saying “it is most certainly not a solution and should not form part of Government consideration”.

Any such proposal, if implemented, would directly damage the competitiveness of Irish agri-food exports and it would hurt rural Ireland, while benefiting little to the environment.

Concluding, Spellman stressed: “In reality, a carbon tax on agriculture would be counterproductive, resulting in food production in carbon efficient locations – such as Ireland – being negatively affected, while highly inefficient regions would be free to increase output unhindered.”