No review of Ireland’s agri-food strategy in wake of climate deal

Minister welcomes ‘ambitious’ pact – but no rethink of State food plan required as a result

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney acknowledged the difficulty of reducing methane emissions. Photograph: Bloomberg

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney acknowledged the difficulty of reducing methane emissions. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said that he believes the Paris Agreement on climate change is “fantastic” and “ambitious” but will not require any review of Ireland’s agri-food strategy.

In Brussels, where is attending annual fish quota talks, Mr Coveney said that a strategy was already being put in place by his department under the terms of the Government’s new Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill.

Mr Coveney said that he welcomed the agreement’s acknowledgement that safeguarding food security and ending hunger was a “fundamental priority”, and he believed some of the references to agriculture in “discussions” during the COP21 talks were “not informed”

Agricultural emissions had fallen by 10 per cent since 1990,whereas transport emissions had risen by 120 per cent, he said.

“We are producing food more sustainably, and agriculture is often painted as a problem when the facts don’t bear this out,” he said.

Sustainable

Mr Coveney acknowledged that it was “more difficult” to reduce methane emissions than to switch from petrol to diesel transport, but said that the Government’s Food Wise 2025 strategy had “sustainable production at its core”.

“The Paris Agreement means that we just have to focus on what we said we would do – ensure food is produced sustainably. And ensure that afforestation of agricultural land gets recognition,” he said.

Afforestation of farmland would reduce emissions by 15 per cent in the agriculture/land use sector, he said, and “this is something that the Irish government has been emphasising at EU and UN levels for some years”.

“We will continue to implement measures to drive down the greenhouse gas intensity of our food production even further . . . ” he said.

“Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme is also providing unique farm level verification of our carbon footprint and marketing this internationally to buyers who are increasingly focused on the sustainability of the food they buy,” he said.

“At the same time we are sequestering significant quantities of carbon though our forestry programme under which we plan to plant 44,000 hectares over the next five years,” he added.