Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Reduction of Carbon Emissions of 51% by 2030: Discussion (Resumed)

Dr. James Moran:

I echo that. We have to invest in farming and local communities as a solution to these issues. As a society we have to agree on our goals and visions for the land base. We are very advantaged in an Irish context in terms of food production. We will always be an export island unless our population grows massively, which is not going to happen. We can be in a situation whereby we export quality food, perhaps more locally based towards the European consumer who is able to pay more for the quality we are able to supply.

Our land has to deliver much more than food. It has to deliver air quality, clean water, space for nature, recreation and amenity resources. It is the basis of our tourism industry. In rural areas, food and tourism are the main economic drivers on which we are dependent. They are interlinked. God help us, people would probably think it was lethal if I were in a position to be able to make decisions. It would be a case where we utilise the land base for more than just food production and reward farmers and the managers of the land for the range of services and the wonderful potential it has. When we listen to what is being said about COP26 and the international challenges we are facing, even the national challenges seem insurmountable.

Every October, we meet in the Burren. It gives us a renewed sense of hope that when we come together as local communities, we can see what can be achieved in these areas. We undervalue farmers as offering the solutions to and being the drivers of this. To support them, we need clear goals, guidance and rewards into the future and not the type of see-sawing we are seeing now in terms of the setting of goals in any one year and then changing them in five years' time. God knows where they will be with a change of Government cycles. We cannot have our food systems working like that. We need clear visions for what we want to achieve. We need an integrated land-use strategy that gives solutions to climate and biodiversity crises and builds a resilient agriculture system at the same time.