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Publication of Climate Action Plan 2023 Welcomed

Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, together with Minister of State, Senator Pippa Hackett and Minister of State, Martin Heydon TD, welcomed the launch of the Climate Action Plan 2023.

The actions for agriculture in this plan provide a viable pathway to achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture by 2030. These actions are in line with achieving a 51% reduction in Ireland’s overall GHG emissions by 2030, and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

Minister McConalogue said, “this all-of-Government plan today commits every sector, including agriculture, to strong climate action. In agriculture, the focus is on reducing nitrogen and methane emissions, while increasing carbon capture and storage and contributing in a positive way to the decarbonisation of the energy system. We need to accelerate progress through reduced application of nitrogen based fertilisers, replacing them with protected urea and reducing the age of cattle finishing. I recognise that achieving this ambition will not be without its challenges and that significant and transformational change will be required.”

“I am confident that farmers and fishers will rise to this challenge, to ensure that Irish agriculture is leading the way for environmentally sustainable food production within a global marketplace. The protection and enhancement of our sustainable food production system, while ensuring that agriculture plays its part in climate change mitigation, has been a priority for this Government. I am committed to delivering on the three pillars of sustainability in agriculture – environmental, societal and, crucially, economic.”

“I am confident that farmers and fishers will embrace this challenge which will require continued engagement and proactive action amongst all of our farmers. Diversification opportunities like anaerobic digestion, forestry and tillage will also provide opportunities for farmers who wish to consider alternative income sources.”

Ireland’s food producers and farmers have a tremendous reputation internationally in terms of the sustainability of the food and drink they produce. It is a reputation that they can be justifiably proud of. With a rapidly evolving marketplace seeking confirmation of our sustainability credentials, farmers have engaged proactively in recent years in improving the carbon footprint of their produce.

Minister McConalogue said, “Irish farmers are incredibly committed to ensuring that they farm in a sustainable way. This commitment will contribute to a vibrant rural economy for generations to come. Irish farmers are innovative, resilient and already committed to working together to find solutions in the face of this enormous challenge. Farmers have been a journey towards becoming more sustainable for many years. We are now stepping up that ambition. We want to ensure that there is a bright and sustainable future for our farm families for this and subsequent generations.”

Minister of State Pippa Hackett said, “this is a positive day for our environment, for our future, and importantly, for our farmers. Government is continuing its commitment to supporting and incentivising farmers to diversify into areas such as organics and forestry, two areas for which I have responsibility, and in which I see massive potential for growth. This Climate Action Plan recognises the positive impact of forests and forest products in sequestering and storing carbon, and we have backed this important sector with a strong financial package of €1.3 billion for the next Forestry Programme beginning in 2023.”

“The plan also sets a target of 450,000 ha for organic farming by 2030, which will bring us close to 10% of agricultural land under organic production. We have seen unprecedented levels of interest in organics in recent months, with record numbers of farmers applying earlier this month to join the Organic Farming Scheme from 2023. As well as contributing to our climate targets, organics delivers significant benefits for biodiversity and water quality, and it aligns with our policy under the Climate Action Plan of significantly reducing our use of chemical fertilisers.”

“Soil health is critical to human health, and our soils are also a vital carbon pool. Proper management of our soils will lead to further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and I am confident that the actions set out in the Climate Action Plan will help us to make significant progress in ensuring that our land use sector contributes to our ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Technological innovation, adoption and research are crucial in achieving the emissions reductions in the agriculture and land-use sectors.

Minister of State, Martin Heydon TD, added, “Ireland’s agri-food sector has earned a strong reputation internationally as a trusted supplier of high quality, safe, sustainable food. Given the highly competitive global markets we sell into, we have to work hard to protect this reputation and continuously strive to innovate and maintain a level of competitiveness and resilience that enables the sector, our farmers, and our rural communities to prosper.”

“It is through research and innovation that we have been able to develop a series of actions that can reduce emissions from the sector, underpinned by robust science. We must continue these efforts to develop new solutions to reduce emissions. That is why I have significantly strengthened my Department’s research funding with over €14 million allocated on a competitive basis, to fourteen research projects on climate action and the environment. Further solutions for reducing emissions at farm level are in development. We are seeing great progress in relation to technologies like feed additives, which will have a significant positive impact on reducing emissions.”

Minister McConalogue, together with Minster Hackett and Minister Heydon, acknowledged that change is not easy but stressed the importance of agriculture and the land use sectors being at the centre of national efforts to address climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity while in parallel adopting an integrated food system approach so as to become a global leader of innovation for sustainable food and agriculture systems.