The President of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack on Friday accused the Government of “enjoying hindering and obstructing farmers” by supporting a cull of dairy cows to reduce carbon emissions, while the Taoiseach was simultaneously supporting an increase in air traffic into Dublin Airport.
“We’ve been told rising emissions are a global problem, and the survival of the human race, not to mind our family farms, depends on lowering emissions, so imagine our surprise then to be told that we can expect air travel to surge by 12% next year,” said Mr McCormack.
“I’m no scientist, but surely increasing passenger numbers from 30 to 40million is going to involve more emissions; it’s going to mean massively increased emissions.”
The Taoiseach’s support for lifting a ceiling on passenger numbers at Dublin Airport was “flawed logic” and “jaw-dropping double-standards”, compared to emission targets placed on farms, he said.
While the DAA was concerned that keeping a passenger ceiling at Dublin Airport would result in new routes being lost to other competing hubs and airports, Mr McCormack added that farmers were similarly concerned that “the moment we drop the volumes of milk that we produce in the most sustainable way on the planet, milk production will immediately switch to other locations that are not as sustainable”.
“So, Ireland loses the money and the planet gets higher emissions”.
Mr McCormack said it appeared the government was arguing that “emissions don’t matter for flights overseas for stag parties and hen nights, but do matter for food production in Tipp or Cavan or anywhere in Ireland”.
In response, the Taoiseach said he wanted “farmers to be part of the solution” and that while the current 25% reduction in emissions target was “significant” on the agriculture sector, farmers “can rise to the challenge”.
The Taoiseach said the aviation industry was responsible for 2% of all of Ireland’s carbon emissions which was “not huge”. He said the aviation industry was researching ways of producing “synthetic fuels” to replace existing solid fuels, said the Taoiseach.
Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, who also addressed the meeting, said he believed it was “possible” farmers could “increase milk production and bring down emissions”.
Green Party leader and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, told the meeting that farmers were “not the enemy” and should not be targeted by environmental groups.
One farmer from the floor said they were “not the villains in the climate change crisis” to which Minister Ryan nodded in agreement and said he had never accused farmers of being the bad guys.
“If I or anyone else did then I apologise,” said the minister.
However, Mr Ryan warned: “Climate change is real, and it is unfolding in a way that is truly terrifying, and we have to respond.”