Taoiseach on climate action: ‘Agriculture is entering a decade of change’

Agriculture is entering a decade of change in many respects – and none more so than the challenges facing the sector in relation to climate action and meeting our environmental targets, according to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

The Taoiseach was addressing the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) virtual annual general meeting today (Thursday, January 28).

In his address, Martin focused on the challenge facing the sector, and what is being done to help farmers to meet it.

He said: “As you all know, the agricultural sector is heavily challenged by the climate change crisis.

Indeed, no sector in the Irish economy is more directly exposed to the practical impacts of climate change as our farmers and fishers, which can already be seen in weather patterns.

Highlighting the launch of the Ag Climatise sectoral roadmap in December, the Taoiseach noted that this will “need to evolve over time given the scale of the climate action challenge”.

He said it provides “clarity as to the sort of practical measures we’re asking farmers to implement on their farms over the period ahead to start making a difference in relation to emissions”.

Pointing to the funding allocated for the promised REPS-like programme, he said: “Significantly the Programme for Government commits to allocating €1.5 billion from the carbon tax over time to a REPS II programme, to encourage and incentivise farmers to farm in a greener and more sustainable way.

“The truth is that agriculture is entering a decade of change in many respects.

This will impact: how we manage our breeding programmes; how we apply chemical fertiliser nutrients; and how we apply our organic manure back to the land.

“Over time I think the sort of changes proposed within the Ag Climatise roadmap will be transformative for Irish agriculture and will help to set us apart on the global stage.

“In the longer term, up to 2050, the agri sector will need to transition to become climate neutral along with other sectors of the Irish economy.

“Farmers have a critical role to play with regard to increased afforestation and carbon sequestration in the times ahead.

As a government we will support the development of on-farm forestry initiatives, through the new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] and invest further in knowledge transfer in this area.

“The agriculture sector remains the backbone of the Irish economy. I want to assure everyone here today that the government wants to work with you to map out a sustainable and prosperous future for the sector, supplying the food which the world needs while meeting our shared environmental goals.”

Highlighting that there are lots of opportunities as well as threats, Martin said:

“The path forward will depend on imagination, research and use of new technologies and investment by both private and public sectors.

There is much to do and, while the sector clearly needs to put its shoulder to the wheel, I am confident that we will continue to export high-quality milk and meat products over the decades ahead in a more sustainable way.

“By embracing this historic challenge and leading internationally, we can protect the Irish family farm for generations to come,” Martin said.