August 16, 2021

Farming and climate action can work together

Sustainable Agriculture in Ireland

Charlie McConalogue, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal, believes Irish farmers can embrace the necessary policies to tackle the climate challenge.

For policymakers tackling the challenges of an issue such as climate change requires a transparent and comprehensive assessment of the available science. 


Encompassing Policies

The true purpose of public policy is to enhance people’s lives and make our nation a better place to live.  Any action towards the climate challenge must be a shared objective. Our planet requires food production, and Ireland represents a vital part of sustainable food generation.

The necessity for sustainable food production is a top priority in International policy measures within the UN Sustainable Develop Goals towards the IPCC Report on Climate Change. Irish farming makes a significant contribution to the national economy, their rural communities and overall employment figures. The industry supplies world-class food and vital raw materials to people across the globe. €8.2bn in farm gate output, €14.2bn allocated towards agri-food exports in 180 countries and the 163,000 agri-food jobs in rural Ireland highlights the importance of this industry.

Adaptation in the Farming Industry

Farmers can be adaptive and willing to adopt change. Farmers have embraced and invested in new technologies for soil management and animal breeding. Since 2015, Irish farmers have invested over €90m in Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Equipment. 

Farmers across the nation have embraced environmental measures, with over 50,000 farmers working on projects to improve biodiversity, water quality and climate efficiency. Many farmers are also representative of quality assurance schemes, which represent the sustainability credentials of Origin Green.

The efforts of farmers have shaped the national landscape, from the lowland pastures to the woodlands, which makes Ireland a desirable place to live, work and visit. 

The Minister for Agriculture highlights that he is very proud of what farmers contribute to the country but emphasises that climate change, biodiversity loss and water quality represent some of the biggest challenges of our time in Ireland and worldwide. In reality, tackling these challenges requires every country to contribute.

While agriculture is often viewed as the main source of emissions, every industry needs to contribute. The latest reports and analysis from the EPA states that the environment in Ireland is relatively good, but important measures on emissions, water quality, air quality and biodiversity are moving in the wrong direction.

Agriculture represents one of the many contributors to this trend. Other industries, such as transport and the built environment, have been urged to reduce emissions and improve their environmental performance.

The next Climate Action Plan will need to include bolder targets for Ireland realistically reaching its goals for 2030. Agriculture, along with other industries, will have to make a significant contribution.

In reality, agriculture will have to make considerable changes over the coming years, and the minister believes that farmers are willing to embrace these necessary changes. Farmers need to have confidence that they will be supported through this transformation, financially and in other ways by the Government and other businesses within the supply chain, the customers and communities. Farmers will need to know they can make a viable return from their farming businesses as they evolve and to ensure they receive the recognition of their impact on society and the economy.

The big challenge is ensuring Ireland can deliver a policy and commercial framework that meets these objectives, enabling Irish farmers to continue producing world-leading food products, support the economy and community and care for the environment in the years ahead.