Thursday, 12 May 2022
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Security: Statements
Marc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
I recently said there is a phrase that should be written on the wall of every office in this Oireachtas. It reads: "Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future." This was said by Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, working chairs. We are walking a climate tightrope and every single step we take from here on has to be a step in the right direction because the fall is, frankly, unthinkable.
We have set out in legislation the overall carbon budgets that must be adhered to in order for us to achieve our climate goals. Agriculture, as a major source of our national emissions profile, will have to play its part when it comes to setting out sectoral ceilings. When I look at the draft Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, strategic plan, I am not sure I see that scale of ambition and step change in how we need to do things from here on. I struggle to see how this plan will integrate with the EU's nature restoration law, which is coming down the tracks, especially, as Deputy Leddin laid out, when many of the conditions of the Pillar 1 payments are so weak. I also worry, and Deputy Carthy referred to this, when I see my brother-in-law, neighbour, or fellas I used to play hurling with, encouraged to borrow so heavily to buy into a system that relies on specialisation, intensification and ever-increasing input costs. Again and again I hear stories of them running to stand still, and working harder and longer hours with nothing to show for it at the end of the week, all the while heaping pressure on our waters and land with all the attendant impacts on biodiversity.
I strongly believe there is a better way forward that offers a brighter future not just for our farming families but all future generations. I listened to some criticism of An Taisce earlier. I want to praise it. In fact, just yesterday, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan, launched the legacy for life programme, which was developed by An Taisce to develop community-based supports for Ireland's natural environment with a focus on ecosystem resilience and biodiversity enhancement. I will draw the Minister's attention to two strands within that project. The first is a pond biodiversity project that looks to build Irish capacity and expertise in pond creation. That may sound like a small measure but it takes a small amount of land for a significant biodiversity pay-off, and not just biodiversity but carbon sequestration. It is something a farmer can create in an hour with a digger and, by the time he is finished, wildlife will already be in that pond. Probably more critical in the context of this debate is the advancing of farm-to-fork, which will seek to offer alternatives to current intensification-based food production methods.
These are examples of ways forward for our farming sector that will secure a viable future for farming families. It is a future that respects our planetary boundaries and nurtures biodiversity and one I strongly believe will also add sustainability and profitability, especially for small farmers and those small farming families that have for so long been the bedrock of our rural communities. I very much hope they will continue to be so in future.