There is a continued focus in my Department on mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with minimum impact on agriculture production. The long-term policy vision for the agricultural sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise the capacity for sustainable food production as referred to in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
In the agriculture sector we have focussed strongly on improving the efficiency of Irish farming which is key to reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. There is clear recognition in Food Wise 2025 that the continued growth of the sector must be on the basis of sustainable intensification. I firmly believe that we can contribute to GHG mitigation objectives while safe guarding our food production by continuing to make improvements in areas such as:
- Animal breeding strategies
- Grassland management
- Nutrient management
- Animal health and welfare
- Feeding strategies that maximise the efficiency of our grass based production system.
My Department and its Agencies are actively involved with the farming sector and continue to invest heavily in a number of schemes and measures to help farmers reduce their carbon footprint while also enhancing output. Such schemes include the Green Low Carbon Agri Environment Scheme (GLAS) programme and which specifically include actions to support climate mitigation; the Beef Data Genomics Programme, which actively supports breeding improvements in our national Suckler Herd and the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes which provides Capital grants for technology and capital investment generating greater efficiency. As an example of my continued focus on encouraging mitigation action at farm level I have recently launched a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot scheme that builds on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme with a funding provision of €20m in 2019.
Innovation and technology will also play an increasing role in supporting the sector to deliver on the sustainability agenda; we are already seeing how technology is being used for calculating the carbon footprint of farms and in other areas such as grass measurement.
We are continuously looking ahead; increased environmental ambition will be a key element of CAP Post 2020. As we look towards defining the measures and targets under the new CAP regime the recently published Teagasc report “An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030” is key to informing the type of abatement measures we need to focus on with a view to achieving the 2030 targets.