According to An Taisce, the claim that if Ireland does not manufacture beef and dairy products, other countries would simply fill the void with inferior products, resulting in widespread “carbon leakage,” is flawed.
The agricultural sector’s argument that “if we don’t grow it, others can” is false and unethical, according to Ian Lumley, a spokesman for the sector, who testified before the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.
During a hearing held to advise the Committee’s submission to public comment on the 2021 Climate Action Plan, members of the committee slammed the environmental organization for its stance toward the rural economy.
“The current direction of Irish agriculture is multiply unsustainable,” it insisted, citing the EPA submission to the AgriFood 2030 Strategy Committee that growth “is happening at the expense of the environment, as witnessed by the trends in water quality, emissions and biodiversity all going in the wrong direction”.
Mr Lumley said that current Irish dairy production and intensification put Irish family farms and the food-processing sector at risk of investment assets becoming obsolete.
“The two now rusting 15 year-old ESB owned and Bord na Móna supplied peat power plants in Counties Offaly and Longford present a warning to the Irish agriculture sector on the consequence of misdirected investment and ill-advised subsidy use,” he added.
He noted that legal infringement actions were the at the European Union, transboundary, and national levels due to governments’ failure to take climate action, minimize health-damaging air emissions, including agricultural ammonia, nitrates, and water-quality impacts, and reverse damage to peatlands. This was resulting in the “destruction of nature and the diversity of organisms on which all life depends.”
The agricultural strategy of Ireland, FoodWise 2025, as well as the current moving forward of the AgriFood 2030 strategy have risken several actions of legal violations of compliance with EU Directive on monitoring and mitigation of significant negative effects on the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Mr Lumley said.
An Taisce proposed in its submission that the consequences of the Netherlands’ bovine agriculture curtailment should be considered when considering future Irish agricultural investment. “The situation in the Netherlands, where cattle herd contraction was needed due to excessive nitrates, should serve as an alert to Ireland.”
It went on to say that there are currently unfounded expectations that a considerable amount of Irish agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be “offset” by carbon soil management, additional forestry or hedgerow planting, or bioenergy.
In order to reduce the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, Mr Lumley added, the farming sector was advancing carbon sequestration in the grasslands. “The carbohydration of peat soil, land burning and moats is not addressed simultaneously by sector, it is surprising.” “
Claims that Ireland is efficient at producing food needed to be reassessed as well, since its efficiency measures “depend on out-of-date evidence that may not capture the full life-cycle impacts of livestock production and which often do not confront the ethical imperative of reducing absolute emissions from food production regardless of how “efficient” a country may appear in comparison.”
Deputy Collins (Indi) said that An Taisce had never been involved in a constructive rural Ireland commitment and said his objection to Glanbia’s proposed 140 million euro cheese factory in Belview, Co Kilkenny was very concerned, especially when the money was enormously paid by taxpayers. The latter was also deeply concerned.
Deputy Paul Kehoe (FG) has accused the organization of continuing objections. “If you had your way, you would close rural Ireland. It will not get through your [environmental] message when you drill down the necks of people,” he added.
An Taisce, according to Mr Lumley, is a statutory body that makes submissions in the interests of protecting water, air quality, and public health, based on Ireland’s commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and EU directives. It had raised “legitimate concerns” about the effect of carbon and ammonia pollution on agriculture, which had not been resolved and were related to agricultural intensification.
He stressed that he had presented detailed proposals for a sustainable rural Ireland in a positive way in documents presented to the committee.
He added that the opportunity to engage in farming organizations was well received earlier, but that was not possible, some of whom still made “dubious claims” about carbon sequestration.
The sector had to face reality rather than relying on a “magical solution; thinking that methane will just evaporate”, he said.
Green TD Brian Leddin, who is also chairman of the Oireachtas Climate Committee, praised An Taisce on its extensive submission, adding it should be commended for its work – “especially on the advocacy side” – and in helping Ireland face up to “its legal, moral and environmental obligations”.
Source: The Irish Times