A decision by European leaders early yesterday to recognise Ireland’s heavy reliance on agriculture in a new long-term policy on food security and climate change was welcomed by Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney.
He said Ireland has been a clear leader for some time at EU level in calling for recognition of the specific issues that arise in the agriculture and forestry sector in relation to policy on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
“It is therefore a very positive result for the Taoiseach to have persuaded his colleagues to agree a statement on agriculture and forestry, which Ireland largely drafted, in their Conclusions on the EU’s Climate and Energy Framework to 2030,” he said.
Noting that Ireland has been working hard on this issue for several years, Minister Coveney said it was on its own when it started raising this issue with the Commission and other member states.
“We have succeeded in persuading others through the force of our arguments, based on sound science and the proven record of Irish agriculture in producing meat, dairy and other products with a low and improving carbon footprint,” he said.
The Conclusions commit the European Commission to examining how to encourage the sustainable intensification of food production, an issue he had consistently championed.
“I regard this as a vital recognition that we must not seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing sustainable food production.
“Rather we should encourage increased food production, to meet rising global demand, but we must do so in a way that is genuinely sustainable,” he said. This was very consistent with Irish policy in the food harvest 2020 strategy with its strong focus on both sustainability and growth
“We are leading the world in some of our climate change actions, including carbon foot printing our farmers, and we are building further on this in the measures in our new Rural Development Programme 2014-2020,” he said.
Minister Coveney said the Conclusions agreed by EU leaders also specifically noted the role afforestation can play in carbon sequestration.
“This is very important for Ireland as afforestation is a major GHG mitigation measure that we are taking on agricultural land. It is essential that the EU’s GHG accounting system should take the value of afforestation fully into account in the future in order to encourage this real and additional mitigation” he said.
Minister Coveney noted that following this decision the EU was in a position to go into global negotiations on climate change with a clear mandate.
He said the Conclusions will have to be given expression in detailed legislation. This will require a lot of detailed negotiation in which the EU leaders will continue to play a key role
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved