IFA President John Bryan has described the legislation on climate change announced by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan as a ‘realistic set of proposals that can allow the agri-food sector to achieve the targets set down in Food Harvest 2020’.
However, John Bryan said that the bar is set too high in looking for carbon neutrality for agriculture.
“There has to be a fundamental review of the existing accounting method for agriculture on a global level that factors in food security and food miles. Any new model must identify the lower levels of carbon emission associated with the method of sustainable food production in countries like Ireland, and how it compares favourably with other food-producing regions around the world. For example, beef production in Ireland has an emission rate that is 50% lower than Brazil, making it far more efficient.”
He said, “The model must recognise the carbon sinks in forestry and grassland, and not allowing the energy sector to take credit for the emission reductions from carbon neutral energy crops such as willows and miscanthus. It also means putting in place viable REFIT tariffs for renewable energy product”.
IFA’s Climate Change Project Team Jer Bergin said, “There are important sustainability initiatives taking place which will support growth in the agri-food sector in Ireland. Bord Bia’s Quality Beef Assurance Scheme and Origin Green initiative, Glanbia’s sustainability initiative, Teagasc’s carbon navigator and IFA’s resource efficiency collaboration with the EPA, Teagasc, UCD and the SEAI are all important measures aimed at reducing emissions from the sector”.
However these sustainability initiatives must be focused on delivering improved returns for farmers, with real price incentives for participating farmers, as well as environmental improvements.