Irish farmers will adapt to climate change ‘with the right advice’

Gathering in Co Wicklow discusses challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Irish farmers feel like they are being blamed for climate change but they will rise to the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a researcher in agricultural biodiversity told a gathering to celebrate National Biodiversity Week in Co Wicklow on Sunday.

“Farmers are the owners and managers of the land and they did all the things we asked them to do to become successful farmers – so with the right advice and support, they will change. We can address biodiversity, ecosystems services [provision of clean water, food and a stable environment], climate change mitigation and adaptation together,” said Jeremy Emmet-Booth, a postdoctoral researcher with the Climate Change Advisory Council.

Moving away from monoculture rye grassland to multispecies grassland which includes clover, plantain and chicory would, according to Mr Emmet-Booth, bring multiple benefits for livestock and nature.

“Clover reduces the need to spread nitrogen which benefits the climate and multispecies grassland improves the health and fertility of livestock and reduces parasites,” he said.


Ninety per cent of agriculture in Ireland is grassland based and 32 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland come from agriculture.

Speaking at the Biodiversity Bites Delgany event, Matthew Jebb, botanist and director of the National Botanic Gardens said that we need to move away from the dramatic biodiversity story that "all is lost" to finding solutions.

“A robust ecosystem is our best hope and our biggest safety net to provide clean water and food,” he said.


Citing Scotland as an example of a country that funded ecosystem services, Mr Jebb said the Scottish government realised that looking after the ecosystem saved money in the long run. “In Scotland they realised that clean mountains produce clean water which costs less to purify but, in Ireland, we spend about four times more on rubbish removal than we do on ensuring our biodiversity is robust.”

Taking the Glen of the Downs special area of conservation in Co Wicklow as a local example, Mr Jebb said a community response to the removal of invasive species such as laurels would be helpful. Creating wildflower areas in gardens and golf courses were other beneficial things to do for biodiversity, he added.

Environmentalist Duncan Stewart said the most important thing communities could do was to educate themselves about biodiversity loss and climate change and inform those around them.

“I’m hearing that climate change and biodiversity loss are still not topics on the doorsteps for our local and European elections this week. We have to make the links between our use of fossil fuels in our homes, transport and agriculture with climate change and act quickly.

“The biggest issue still is that society is not impressing on our politicians that action is needed now because our children’s future is at risk.”

Delgany Tidy Towns, which organised the event, launched the Delgany Tree for a Child programme under which a tree will be planted for each child in the village over the next five years.

Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health, heritage and the environment