Dairy sector and climate crisis

Livestock’s climate impact

Sir, – Zoë Kavanagh of the National Dairy Council says that it is not the agriculture sector which is muddying the waters on research and science on livestock’s climate impact (Letters, September 3rd). However, many of the points she raises reinforce, rather than refute, Prof Hannah Daly’s column (“Climate debate being poisoned by agriculture’s manufactured doubt and division”, September 1st).

One example, a claim that rapid cuts in methane emissions are deemed necessary to “buy ourselves time to address the fossil fuel issue”, is incorrect. In fact, the UN climate panel says the Paris Agreement means emissions of methane from agriculture need to fall by 11 per cent to 30 per cent globally between 2010 and 2030, in addition to, not instead of, much deeper cuts in carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. However, emissions of methane from Irish livestock actually grew by 17 per cent since 2010, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projections indicate these will not fall by 2030 with existing policies and measures.

Relying on the claim that Irish livestock are “serving a global market” also fails to convince when the industry is actively seeking to grow that market.

Last week, publicly funded Bord Bia launched an €8 million campaign to promote the consumption of Irish dairy and red meat in Asian countries, where diets typically do not contain these high-carbon foods.


Moreover, Ms Kavanagh’s claim that Ireland produces “low-carbon” livestock products is based on a study that uses 18-year-old data, and only compares the carbon footprints of milk and beef, food categories that are among the most polluting there are.

Finally, the claim that Irish methane emissions are overstated offers false hope to farmers. Any revision would affect the 2018 baseline as well current emissions figures, so the 25 per cent percentage target would remain.

It is time for the livestock sector to move on from casting doubt on the science, which serves neither farmers nor current and future generations exposed to climate catastrophes. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Friends of the Earth,

Dublin 2