The Heads of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill provide for the preparation of a national low carbon roadmap which will develop the vision for a low carbon economy and outline the policy measures to be adopted for emissions reductions and for enabling the State to adapt to the effects of climate change. As part of this process, roadmaps are to be developed for a number of sectors, including agriculture. My Department has commenced work on the development of a sectoral roadmap for agriculture, and has had discussions with Teagasc with regard to the provision of research and advice to inform this work.
The roadmap for agriculture will take into account the targets in the industry’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy as well as the existing mitigation commitments. However, it is important that the roadmap will also outline a longer term view and will seek to balance the objectives of allowing the food industry to grow so as to meet the food security challenges that face the world; as well as the need to meet future climate change ambition. Irish agriculture has already achieved significant progress in production efficiency including the use of fertiliser and manure, grassland management, improved breeding and better fertility. The level of emissions from agriculture has been steadily decreasing in recent years and my Department will continue to work with state and industry stakeholders so as seek even greater future efficiencies in a sustainable Irish agriculture sector.
The Food Harvest High Level Implementation Committee decided that an independent environmental analysis of Food Harvest 2020 should be carried out on various scenarios by which the industry targets in the strategy might be achieved. This work commenced in April 2012, and the draft report is currently being prepared for an eight week public consultation which will commence in the coming weeks. In consultation with the Environment Directorate General of the European Commission, the process has closely followed what would be required for a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and for an Appropriate Assessment (AA) in so far as the impacts of the possible scenarios are measurable at such a high level or on a national basis.
The analysis has examined the following critical environmental factors : biodiversity, flora and fauna, water quality including drinking water, soil, air quality, landscape and buildings, and climatic factors including greenhouse gas emissions. On its completion, following the period of public consultation, the report will be very valuable in informing development of the agriculture sectoral roadmap. It will also provide important guidance to the HLIC and to all actors in the agriculture sector in relation to future plans for implementation of the high-level targets in Food Harvest 2020.