Ireland’s approach to farming emissions wins praise from World Bank

Juergen Voegele commends Ireland for combining productivity with lower emissions

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney announced the commencement of payments worth €620 million to over 100,000 Irish farmers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney announced the commencement of payments worth €620 million to over 100,000 Irish farmers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Ireland’s approach to reducing agricultural emissions has won praise from one of the most influential voices in the climate change debate.

Juergen Voegele, senior director at the World Bank’s environmental performance unit, commended the farming sector here for managing to combine higher productivity with a lower carbon footprint.

Addressing delegates at a Paris conference, Dr Voegele said: “If every cow was as good as the top 10 per cent of cows in Ireland, we would have one-third less methane emissions on this planet.”

Dr Voegele visited Ireland last September as a guest of the Agricultural Science Association (ASA).

He said: “If Ireland produces a litre of milk or a kilogram of beef, it does it with a much lower footprint than the rest of the European community.”

His endorsement of efforts to tackle climate change here was queried,however, by environmental experts.

Joseph Curtain of the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) told The Irish Times that while elements of Ireland’s dairy and beef sector were efficient “a very significant proportion” of suckler cow beef farming here was economically and environmentally “sub-optimal”.

“I think we need to be a bit more nuanced in the way we talk about Irish agriculture, acknowledging both the positives and the significant potential for improvement and innovation,” he said

Mr Curtain also noted that Ireland had the fifth highest emissions rate per hectare in the EU, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Separately, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney announced the commencement of payments worth €620 million to over 100,000 Irish farmers under the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme.

Last month, the European Commission agreed to fast-track a greater portion of payments to farmers here as part of the series of measures to deal with collapsing commodity prices.

Under the Basic Payment Scheme, formerly the Single Farm Payment, Irish farmers receive about €1.2 billion in subsidies from Brussels.

Normally, about half is paid ahead of time in October but the commission plans to extend this advance to 70 per cent as a result of the current crisis, with the remaining 30 per cent paid in December.

Mr Coveney added that “the initial advance of the BPS and Greening Payment, together with ANC payments, means approximately €775 million will have issued to Irish farmers under these Schemes in the last month alone.