Bombshell for Irish Beef, Dairy Sectors on Carbon Emissions

New data published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reveal that Ireland is the most carbon-intensive beef producer in Europe, and ranks as Europe’s third highest on emissions from its dairy sector.

This revelation, which emerged recently from the FAO’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), whose methodology examines the full life cycle impact of food production, will come as a bombshell to Ireland’s Agri-industrial sector, which has long argued, using outdated 2004 data, that Irish beef and dairy is among the most efficient in the EU in terms of emissions.

Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed has repeatedly and publicly defended the expansion of Ireland’s beef and dairy sectors, despite spiralling emissions, by arguing that we are ‘more efficient’ than other countries so therefore it was better that we produce these intrinsically emissions-intensive foods than to have them produced even more inefficiently elsewhere.

According according to media reports today, the Department of Agriculture is in “intensive discussions” with the FAO, claiming that its data is inaccurate, and it is questioning the FAO’s use of full life-cycle methodology.

John Gibbons, An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee spokesperson stated

“The FAO baseline results for livestock agriculture's climate impact indicates that, relative to other EU nations, Ireland's livestock agriculture has very high emissions intensities: close to the worst emissions per litre of protein for dairy production and the worst for beef. Indeed, for all animal product types analysed by FAO GLEAM, including sheep and pig production, Ireland’s baseline emissions intensities are worse than the EU average”.

“However, climate action requires reduction of total agricultural sector emissions, so even if emissions intensity improves, any overall increase in production wipes out any saving. The primary drivers for Ireland’s increasing agriculture emissions are the rapidly increasing use of fossil-fuel derived nitrogen fertiliser, which boosts grass growth, and ever more concentrate feed per head. Climate action requires limits on production or on total fertiliser and feed usage; otherwise efficiency gains, if any, will have no effect”.

The shocking findings published this week in the journal ‘Biological Conservation’ that global insect populations are collapsing, with intensive agriculture and the heavy use of pesticides among the main drivers of this ecological calamity. This should give even more urgent reasons for Minister Creed and his government to call a halt to a model of agricultural expansion that is extremely emissions intensive as well as contributing to dangerous biodiversity loss and accelerating levels of fresh water pollution.


For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.