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climate action plan

Taoiseach says there's an 'obsession' about the national herd in climate debate

“There’s a much broader range of issues that we have to do in addition to agriculture,” the Taoiseach said at the launch of the Climate Action Plan.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that there is an “obsession” with the national herd when compared to the broader climate change debate.

At today’s launch of the Government’s much-awaited Climate Action Plan, the Taoiseach was asked about what measures would be in place to stabilise the national herd, as the Government had said it would do.

“I just think this obsession with the herd – in the context of the overall debate about climate changs – it’s incredible the degree to which people are looking at climate change through this prism.

“I genuinely have to put that on the table here,” he said.

“There’s a much broader range of issues that we have to do in addition to agriculture.”

He said that a  reduction of emissions was needed across all sectors, and in agriculture it would need to be reduced “whilst maintaining food production”. He added that there are a number of variants, including methane reduction, nitric oxides, carbon dioxide.

The Climate Action Plan sets out a 22-30% target reduction in carbon emissions for the agriculture sector by 2030.

This is an plan that has been arrived at between the Minister for Climate [Eamon Ryan] and [Minister for Agriculture Charlie] McConalogue, and we’re going to work with farmers to achieve these objectives from the ground up, and also engage in research and utilisation of technologies to make our food production system more efficient.

He said that Ireland’s farming industries was already “one of the more efficient if not one of the most efficient food production systems in Europe and across the globe”.

But he said that the future of the sector needed to be made sustainable for young farmers and for consumers who are demanding more climate friendly products.

We need greater productivity, we need greater efficiency in terms of how we produce food.

“The consumer will demand food products that have a low carbon footprint. The consumer is holding governments, companies and systems to account in terms of behaviour in respect of climate change,” Martin said.

Earlier this week, more than 80 countries signed an EU-US pledge to slash methane emissions by 30% by the end of the decade.

Cutting the powerful greenhouse gas by a third from 2020 levels will “immediately slow down climate change”, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told the COP26 climate conference.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have told the Dáil that the government wants a “stabilisation” of the number of cattle in Ireland, rather than a reduction. 

Varadkar said there was no question of a “cull” of cattle:

Some farmers may increase the number of animals they keep, others may decrease them because they decide to diversify into other areas.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue also suggested this week that cattle could be slaughtered earlier in their lifespan to help achieve a reduction in methane emissions. 

McConalogue said this would have a “significant impact” on reducing emissions “without necessarily reducing the herd”.

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