Environmental sustainability must be considered in tandem with economic and social sustainability, IFA President Joe Healy has said in a submission to the Citizens Assembly on ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’.
Joe Healy said Ireland has a responsibility to act to tackle climate change, and agriculture has an important role to play, but the need to safeguard food production must be respected. He pointed out that the guiding focus of EU and international climate policy is on emission efficient food production, rather than reducing food production.
The IFA President said, “A strong agriculture sector in Ireland is critical to a balanced economy. Agriculture provides employment and generates earnings across the country and our national greenhouse gas emissions reflects the importance of agriculture to the country.”
“Not all sectors are the same, with agriculture having other obligations, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As such climate change cannot be dealt with in isolation. Wider policy objectives and societal implications must also be considered. This point is accepted in national, European and international climate policy and is worth consideration.”
Joe Healy said that in agriculture, Ireland is already taking a leading position in Europe by targeting European funding through the Common Agriculture Policy to areas that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector. He said 87% of the measures in Ireland’s Rural Development Programme have climate reducing elements.
“This climate focus of policy makers in Ireland is having a real impact, with emissions intensity per calorie of food output in 2013 approximately 14% below 2005. This figure is projected to reach 25% by 2030, based on the delivery of current policy measures,” he said.
The IFA submission points out that the greatest and most cost-effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions come in the built environment, transport and energy sectors.
Joe Healy said there is a need for action in these sectors and farming can do more to offer support.
However, he said, Government action is required to facilitate this, For example, a realistic feed-in tariff must be put in place and a new policy approach adopted towards the delivery of renewables that encourages community participation and farm scale projects.