14 July 2016
Political commitment required to establish Ireland as global leader in climate smart agriculture
Political commitment required to establish Ireland as global leader in climate smart agriculture - According to a joint report from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the RDS
Key recommendations include:
Providing incentives for farmers to encourage investment in dairy-beef systems, soil health, better genetics, forestry and on-farm renewables
Promoting access to land for young farmers who are innovative and have high rates of technology adoption
Reconfiguring extension services and knowledge transfer activities around climate-smart farming
Promoting climate-smart agriculture overseas through aid programmes and other mechanisms
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has emerged in recent years as an approach which addresses the great interlinked challenge of the 21st century – how to achieve global food and nutrition security while tackling climate change.
The RDS/IIEA report* calls for a strategic reorientation in Ireland around CSA, which involves balancing three objectives:
- Boosting farm income and productivity;
- Building resilience to the increasingly evident impacts of climate change such as flooding; and
- Reducing emissions in light of EU and international obligations.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed, T.D. said, “This report acknowledges Ireland’s current status as a producer of sustainable and carbon efficient food, and goes on to recognise the stark challenges and exciting opportunities facing Irish agriculture over the coming decades. I welcome this independent report and recognise the unique collaborative approach used by the IIEA/RDS, which involved participation from a wide range of stakeholders and experts”.
Tom Arnold, Director General of the IIEA said, “Current low milk prices and political shocks such as Brexit highlight the need for a more diverse, resilient and productive farming and land use sector. We believe that becoming a leader in CSA will benefit the Irish agri-food industry while addressing our national climate change challenges. This will not be easy. It will require high level political commitment, a coherent whole-of –government policy, buy-in from farmers and their organizations, and innovative partnerships involving all actors.”
The report provides a set of recommendations aimed at driving further climate-smart improvements at farm level. A central recommendation is that a management framework be developed by Government to measure these improvements; in this way Ireland’s good standing can be measured, validated and communicating internationally.
Speaking on behalf of the RDS, President Matthew Dempsey said, “Irish milk and beef has among the lowest carbon footprint per unit of output in Europe. The report notes that by minimizing inputs on farms, improving succession planning, boosting knowledge transfer, and promoting a better understanding of genetics, soil health and cultivation technologies on our tillage farms, we can become a leader in climate-smart agriculture. It recognises the importance of diversifying farm incomes through forestry and renewables, and it highlights the importance of developing more sophisticated emissions inventories so that Ireland can gain credits for all improvements in on-farm efficiency and carbon sinks.”
The report also proposes the mainstreaming of a climate-smart approach into Ireland’s outward-facing diplomacy. This would involve a shift in the overseas development programme towards climate-smart agriculture, in partnership with leading NGOs. It would also involve promoting public-private partnerships to transfer Ireland’s expertise to food insecure regions.
The report recognises the importance of taking a whole of society approach by reducing food waste and promote healthier diets. It highlights the role of political leadership in mobilising support from diverse stakeholders for a strategic reorientation around CSA, and to communicate the benefits of a more profitable, greener, and resilient agriculture and land use sector.
*Notes to editor
RDS and the IIEA established a Leadership Forum on Climate-Smart Agriculture 18 months ago, and engaged key leaders and stakeholders nationally and internationally. The objective of the Forum was to find pragmatic solutions for Irish agriculture within the context of food demand trends and climate change.
This report entitled: “A Climate-Smart Pathway for Irish Agricultural Development: Exploring the Leadership Opportunity”, is the outcome of this process. It was authored by Joseph Curtin and Tom Arnold of the IIEA, with editorial input form Tom Kirley, Chairman of the Rural Development Committee of the RDS. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors (IIEA and RDS) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the contributors.
Members of the Advisory Committee for this project were: Mike Magan, Animal Health Ireland; Oonagh Duggan, Birdwatch Ireland; Padraig Brennan & Jim O’Toole, Bord Bia; Dominic MacSorley & Connell Foley, Concern Worldwide; Edmond Harty, Dairymaster; John Muldowney & Ronan Gleeson, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; John O’Neill, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Hazel Chu, Diageo Ireland; John Gilliland & Gill Gallagher, Devenish Nutrition; Frank McGovern, EPA; Cara Agustenborg, Friends of the Earth; Audrey O’Shea, Glanbia; John Comer & John Enright, ICMSA; Thomas Ryan & Harold Kingston, IFA; Mags Gaynor & Ben Siddle, Irish Aid; Gerard Keenan, Keenans; Derry Dillon, Macra na Feirme; Larry O’Connell, NESC; Paul Farrelly, RDS; Eamon Meehan & Lorna Gold, Trocaire; Trevor Donnellan, Teagasc; Ray Bates, UCD; and Mick Hamell, formerly European Commission.