Written answers

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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441. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress that has been made on the matter of mitigating effects that arise regarding greenhouse gas emissions due to our agricultural industry and open grassland farming since September 2011 when both he and Minister Hogan met with the Commissioner for Climate Change on the matter. [28072/13]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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From a mitigation point of view there are a number of particular challenges for the Irish agriculture sector: Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the agriculture sector arise mainly due to natural processes which have developed over a long period of time. To date, mitigation technologies that would significantly abate the impact of these processes, without impacting productivity, have not been identified on a large scale. A high proportion of non-Emissions Trading System (non-ETS) emissions come from the agriculture sector. Irish agriculture, with its temperate grassland production system, has already demonstrated a high level of carbon efficiency compared with other EU Member States and third countries, and this has been recognised by the EU's Joint Research Centre and Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. The level of efficiency already achieved in the Irish sector means that there is limited additional mitigation potential available using currently available technologies and practices.

My Department continues to engage in extensive assessment of the mitigation potential in the agricultural sector, based on knowledge generated through its research programmes. Since 2005, the Department has made awards totalling more than €20m on climate change related projects. For example, last November some €2.7M was allocated to projects that are examining aspects of sustainability in agriculture and climate action, including sustainable nitrogen use, ruminant production and life cycle analysis. The results of the assessment to date indicate that there is mitigation potential of the order of 5% compared to Business as Usual.

National and international research has provided some cost-effective mitigation options. While none of these are groundbreaking, reductions in emissions can be achieved, particularly when a number of measures are employed in combination. The emphasis must be on improving carbon efficiency and intensity with an even greater number farmers availing of the latest available knowledge and best practices current output levels.

My Department continues to stress the need to combine climate change mitigation ambition with a competitive and carbon efficient farming system. The key underlying themes to the industry's Food Harvest 2020 strategy are “Smart, Green, Growth”. All actors in the Irish agri-food industry understand the importance of sustainability in increased production. In June 2012 Bord Bia launched Origin Green, a national voluntary sustainability development programme that is designed to help Ireland become a world leader in sustainably produced food and drink. Interested companies sign up to a Sustainability Charter where they set out clear targets in key areas such as raw material sourcing, emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and social sustainability.

At the food manufacturing level it is intended that 75% of Irish food and drink exports will be sourced from companies participating in Origin Green before the end of 2014. With some 254 Irish food and drink companies already registered to participate in the programme, this represents more than 70% of Ireland's food and drink exporters. At farm level, since 2011, over 43,000 members of Bord Bia's Beef Quality Assurance Scheme members have participated in a sustainability survey, developed by Bord Bia in conjunction with Teagasc, as part of their regular farm audit. Ireland is the first country in the world to assess the footprint performance of farms on a national scale. The audit results combined with the development of the Teagasc/Bord Bia Carbon Navigator Tool enables farmers to set targets in areas that can improve the environmental and financial performance of their farm in addition to providing a unique selling point for Irish beef in key export markets.

Similar programmes are planned across the entire range of primary agricultural production - for the dairy industry; for poultry production at both farm and processing level; for pigmeat and lamb production with a view to completing this work by the end of 2013; and projects are also being planned for grain and horticulture. My Department continues to play a central role in the development of schemes to incentivize participation by farmers in discussion groups that are designed to promote best practices in farming. The Department has developed and provides the funding for the Dairy Efficiency Programme and the Beef and Sheep Technology Action Programmes. Teagasc and other private advisors in turn provide the advisory service on the ground to farmers. The Department will continue to seek to maximise the opportunities under CAP to mobilise an effective advisory service that takes account of environmental issues.


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