Taoiseach Enda Kenny delivered a disjoined and deeply flawed performance in his opening address to the COP21 conference in Paris today (30/11).

Instead of setting out a clear pathway for dramatic decarbonisation of the Irish economy and our transition to a safer, sustainable future, Mr. Kenny used his opportunity with the world’s leaders present to again peddle the tactics of Ireland’s powerful agriculture and food processing industry lobby in pleading for ‘special treatment’ for one particular sector of the Irish economy.

Rather than engaging with the reality of spiralling emissions arising from the impacts of Food Harvest 2020/Food Wise 2025, which sees an addional 300,000 dairy cattle added to the national herd, Mr. Kenny chose instead to waffle about ‘carbon foot-printing 43,500 beef farms and 18,000 dairy farms’. Adding 300,000 carbon foot-printed cattle still increases GHGs.

While sheltering behind Ireland being tied as an EU member to sharp emissions reductions (20% by 2020, rising to 40% by 2030), Mr. Kenny, along with Ministers Coveney and Kelly have repeatedly made it clear that they do not feel bound by “unrealistic” EU commitments, and will, at every opportunity, seek to undermine these.

This is because they know well the impossibility of Ireland making meaningful and sustained Greenhouse Gas reductions while driving the expansion of ruminant-based agriculture (ie. dairy and beef production) which is far and away the most emissions-intensive and least sustainable form of agriculture. The fact that some countries, somewhere on earth may be even less efficient than Ireland at producing massive amounts of dairy and meat products doesn’t make our agro-industrial expansion policy any less inexcusable.

Recent analysis from the highly respected UK Chatham House [Note 1] think tank pointed out that the global livestock industry now accounts for more emissions than all the cars, trains, planes and ships in the world – combined. Yet, a MORI study found the public mistakenly think transport is a far bigger contributor to global warming than livestock agriculture.

The IPCC’s fifth Assessment Report pointed out that dietary change could “substantially lower” global GHG emissions, but there is not yet a UN plan in place to deliver this transition.

The Chatham House report concludes: “Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2C.” Yet today, Mr. Kenny, rather than squarely facing the challenge of putting Ireland on the path to a sustainable, food-secure future, instead ‘went out to bat’ for the powerful agri and food-processing industries.

According to the EPA, agriculture will account for 45% of Ireland’s total (non-ETS) emissions by 2020, with transport adding another 30%. Both these sectors are on entirely unsustainable pathways, and Mr. Kenny has done absolutely nothing in Paris to signal how Ireland can make the transition.

Multiple recent studies have shown that the target of avoiding a catastrophic +2C rise in global temperatures is, in the words of the Chatham House report, “off the table” unless there is a global shift away from meat and dairy consumption.

Assuming Mr. Kenny and the farming lobby he speaks on behalf of actually understands the science, he is, in essence, committing Ireland to do its full share in bringing the nightmare of what the IPCC warns of “dangerous and irreversible climate change” ever closer.


For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +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

Note 1: https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20141203LivestockClimateChangeBaileyFroggattWellesley.pdf?dm_i=1TY5,30JL0,BHZILT,AUGSP,1