Eating less carbon-intensive food, like red meat, would help significantly reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions, report finds.

July 15th 2016

Ireland’s agriculture and food system needs to substantially change if we are to meet the challenge of climate change, a report into Climate Smart Agriculture has found.

Significantly the report has also acknowledged that by changing the food we eat we can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

This is the first time an Irish report has addressed the issue of consumption. Ireland has one of the most inefficient agriculture sectors in Europe because of our high production of red meat and dairy which are both carbon-intensive.

The report concludes that to address the issue of climate change we need actions across all of the entire food system including farmers, producers, retailers, and right down to consumers.

The new ‘reorientation’ they are proposing also needs buy in from all levels of Government and all key stakeholders.

The report entitled ‘A Climate-Smart Pathway for Irish Agricultural Development’ was put together by the Climate-Smart Agriculture Leadership Forum. The forum is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the Royal Dublin Society (RDS).

An Taisce have said that the report shows that Irish agriculture urgently needs to transition towards producing far healthier food with far lower climate emissions. Farmers must be supported to use less polluting methods that can support increasing biodiversity and water quality, they added in a statement.

An Taisce’s Natural Environment Officer, Fintan Kelly, said: “This report makes it clear that a healthy planet requires a shift away from large-scale red meat and dairy production and consumption and also that a healthy diet means consuming far less of highly climate-polluting and land intensive foods such as beef and sheep-meat. Unfortunately, Government policy is focused in exactly the opposite direction to this report’s analysis by programmes that increase climate emissions and detract from food security, environmental integrity and public health.”

Mr Kelly continued:

“Current policy is unfairly prioritising the profits of the major food producers that export beef and infant formula milk powder predominantly to relatively wealthy consumers.

“It is failing to protect the well-being of very many farmers, the health of the public and the world’s poorest people.

“It is failing to deliver reductions in emissions and to redress the serious negative impacts of agriculture and forestry on biodiversity and water quality. These policies need to change in accord with producing healthy food distributed fairly on a planet with a stable climate future.”

In a statement An Taisce said: “This is a very different direction from current policy. The report shows the stark need for large changes in Irish agriculture away from its current livestock focus. A different course is needed to help address the pressing challenges of increasing global food security and ensuring climate stability.

“These realities challenge directly the misleading rhetoric and misguided facts in Department of Agriculture statements and in Bord Bia’s Origin Green marketing programme, which inaccurately claim that business-as-usual, livestock-focused agriculture is climate smart and sustainable. Overall, current Irish agriculture is neither climate smart nor sustainable.”

Click here to read the report into Climate Smart Agriculture Click here to read An Taisce’s response in full
About the Author

Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.

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