While Ireland has what is internationally recognised as one of the most carbon efficient systems of food production in the EU, there are inherent challenges in reducing emissions in the sector. However, while agriculture is contributing to emissions, it is also part of the solution. The Teagasc Sustainability Survey shows that the top performing third of farms emitted, on average, 9.6 kg CO2 equivalent per kg beef, compared with 14.9 kg for the bottom performing third of cattle farms. Reducing this variability is a real opportunity to make progress in reducing emissions from cattle production in Ireland.
Innovations unique to Ireland such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme, the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) and initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes all contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.
The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies 34 actions for the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society. These include abatement measures, carbon sequestration measures and measures to displace fossil fuels. This reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production.
To achieve the challenging target for the sector set out in this plan, will require immediate action, through early adoption and high levels of take-up of the actions identified across our 139,000 plus family farms.
I see three important actions that can be advanced immediately.
- Deepening engagement with farmers and other stakeholders along the food supply chain to promote the necessary deployment of new technologies and changes in farming practices;
- Improving nitrogen use efficiency such as widespread adoption of low emissions slurry spreading , introduction of clover in grassland swards and improving fertiliser use efficiency; and
- Continuing our support for research and innovation such as animal breeding, improved grassland and fertiliser management and examining the potential of novel feed additives in grass based production systems.
Ongoing negotiations on the future of the next Common Agricultural Policy will ensure that our ambition in this area is aligned with European and national policy while also recognising the importance of a sustainable and viable agricultural sector to rural communities.
I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government to ensure successful implementation of the plan. I am also confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society. Recognising the importance of the agricultural sector to our economy and the viability of rural Ireland my Department and associated agencies will strive to meet this challenge head-on to ensure the best possible outcome for all the stakeholders involved.