An Taisce’s principal concern is that any plan for greenhouse gas mitigation by the agricultural sector must actually and measurably contribute to the necessary, immediate, substantial and sustained reductions needed in Ireland’s total emissions.

The Department of Agriculture's discussion document, ahead of their input into the National Mitigation Action Plan, does not feature such a scenario among its objectives. A sectoral plan must contribute emission cuts to the national plan, or, if not, explain why it is not and how it will pay for compensatory cuts in other sectors.

Agriculture needs to contribute emission savings immediately to help cut Ireland’s annual total emissions. Currently Ireland is failing even to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ‘With Measures’ scenario, a “worst case”. At present, the 20% target reduction relative to 2005 to which Ireland has committed in accordance with EU requirements may be as low as 2% in reality according to EPA projections.

Producing extra livestock-derived food to feed a growing global population of wealthier consumers (Food Harvest 2020) will not respect the environmental limits of the planet or feed the poorest. Climate projections are clear that global emissions from livestock agriculture, like fossil fuel extraction, will likely have to be limited to achieve re-stabilisation of the Earth’s climate system. Knowingly contributing to increasing Ireland’s responsibility for climate risk and damage, as current Food Harvest 2020 and 2025 policy do, is not a ‘climate smart’ response.

An ill-defined “approach to carbon neutrality” as a “horizon point” for agriculture is insufficient to meeting these realities. The horizon, by definition, is always retreating. An Taisce urge the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural sector to plan for and achieve near-term and continuing absolute emission cuts to play a real part in greenhouse gas mitigation.

Download the submission here.