Recent data produced by the World Resources Institute shows that Ireland is having a sustainable recovery, successfully growing economic output while reducing environmental impact.
Ireland is among the 10 leading economies in the world that have managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing GDP.
Between 2000 and 2014, while Ireland’s real GDP grew by 47%, our carbon emissions declined by 16%.
Of the 10 leading countries, only Bulgaria had a greater increase in GDP and only four countries reduced their CO2 emissions by a greater percentage than Ireland; all of these countries had significantly lower growth in GDP during the period.
National legislation will continue to drive Ireland’s decoupled recovery over the next number of years.
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act introduced last year requires sectoral mitigation plans for the agriculture, transport, built environment, and electricity generation sectors.
These plans will be supported by climate adaptation plans to prepare Ireland for future climate challenges.
Farmers are committed to improving environment
lrish agriculture will continue its leadership position in sustainable food production. Ireland is the only country in the world that monitors, measures and manages carbon from farm to fork.
Initiatives like the IFA-led Smart Farming programme address the dual challenges of improving farm incomes while reducing environmental impacts.
In addition more than 70,000 farmers are now measuring carbon in programmes like Bord Bia’s Quality Beef Assurance programme.
Farmer actions are supported by a clear commitment from Government, with over €2bn of the rural development programme budget dedicated to climate and agri-environment programmes such as GLAS and TAMS.
This commitment to environmental improvement by so many farmers is unique and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
It is delivering results; Ireland’s agri-food sector is growing carbon efficiently, with overall emissions declining by 9% since 1990, even as the sector recorded its sixth consecutive year of growth in 2015.
Renewables and bioenergy
More can be done. The Department of Energy must develop a clear national bioenergy and renewables plan, which supports farm scale and community based renewables.
Increasing forestry plantation is important where it makes economic, environmental and social sense. Full recognition of the carbon sinks in forestry and grasslands is also necessary.
Caution is also required, however, as this environmentally sustainable growth must start delivering an economic return for the thousands of hard-pressed farmers enduring low margins and challenging farming conditions.
In addition, sustainable development has the potential to be undermined by a negative outcome to either the EU ammonia or greenhouse gas emissions discussions currently taking place.
These could result in a major setback to the sustainable intensification of our emission efficient agri-food sector and stifle its future growth.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s urgent intervention is required in Europe, along with a drive towards environmental and economically sustainable growth for the agri-food sector from a strong and stable government.
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