Having escaped one straitjacket in the form of milk quota, Irish farmers seem determined not to be strapped into another one — carbon-constraints.
In the 2015 Irish Examiner ICMSA farming survey, only 85 farmers out of 569 said they should cut back their production in order to reduce global warming.
Asked if Irish farmers should reduce production as part of the national effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming, the majority (51%) disagreed strongly, and 24% slightly disagreed.
Although 24% neither agreed or disagreed, only 16% agreed.
That survey result puts farmers on a collision course with the powers-that-be that are committed to reducing emissions — not to mention with environmentalists who would go even further.
Agriculture is responsible for over 32% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, compared to the EU average of 10%.
This reflects the relative absence of heavy industry in Ireland, and the dominance of cattle and sheep production in Irish agriculture.
With such high emissions, Irish agriculture cannot expect to go unscathed by the EU’s pledge to lead the global battle against climate change with a binding, economy-wide emissions reduction target of at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Most of the Irish agricultural emissions come from cattle (methane), use of fertilisers, and use of cattle feeds.
They are targeted because, in the words of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, there is “no silver bullet to tackle climate change”, other than decrease carbon emissions, “whilst keeping the economy growing”.
Irish agriculture emissions declined by 7.2% from 1990 to 2013, due to decreases in total cattle and sheep numbers, and the re-focusing of the CAP towards environmental management policy.
However, GHG emissions from agriculture have started to increase again.
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