Dáil Éireann - Volume 674 - 11 February, 2009

Written Answers. - Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action he proposes to take to ensure that national, European or other policy strategies arising from global warming or climate change proposals, do not negatively impact on the agri-sector with particular reference to reducing the bovine herd and the need to preserve and develop the national and European food producing sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5297/09]

  Deputy Brendan Smith: The Government fully supports the EU commitments to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to scale up this reduction to as much as 30%, as part of a new global climate change agreement when other developed countries make comparable efforts. The Government also supports the commitment to increase the share of renewables in energy use to 20% by 2020, including a 10% biofuel target.

While it is recognised, both nationally and at EU level, that delivering emissions reductions in the agriculture sector will be difficult, it is also clear that any policy leading to a significant reduction in Irish cattle numbers, as a means of achieving emissions reductions, would be simply counter-productive in terms of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Any fall in Irish beef and dairy output would simply be replaced on European and global markets, most likely, by food from countries where production systems are far less sustainable and where the carbon footprint of that food is significantly higher than food produced in Ireland.

Ireland’s pasture based food production system is very efficient in terms of emissions per unit of food produced and offers the optimal means of safe, sustainable, high-quality food production.

[609] Globally, the consumption of meat and dairy products is expected to increase significantly by 2050. In the interests both of global food security and of the pursuit of important market opportunities, the ability of the EU agriculture and food sector to respond to these developments needs to be encouraged and protected. In that context, I will continue to press for the policy strategies needed to ensure that we meet our climate change goals in ways that are consistent with national objectives for our agricultural sector and rural economy.