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Need for Coherence Between Climate Change and Food Security Agendas

Speaking at today's Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting in Brussels, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, voiced his concerns about the challenge which the EU's Climate Change proposals posed for agriculture and the agri-food sector in Ireland and the wider EU. The matter had been placed on the Council Agenda at his request and Minister Smith had submitted a paper setting out the main issues. He was happy that the President of the Council, Michel Barnier, had facilitated the discussion."This is a clear recognition by Agriculture Ministers of the importance of ensuring that the EU's policy objectives for the agriculture and food sector are upheld in the Climate Change negotiations. While Climate Change actions are vitally important it is equally important that any proposed actions are considered from an agriculture and food production perspective leading to greater coherence in the pursuit of EU policy objectives in both areas."

Minister Smith said that Ireland fully supported the goals agreed by the Heads of State and Government at the 2007 Spring European Council for reduction in the EU's greenhouse gas emissions. "I am, however, concerned that the implementation of the reduction proposals should not result in unintended impacts in terms of Ireland's and the EU's role in global food supplies and global greenhouse gas levels."

The Minister referred to the fact that Ireland is one of the countries facing the highest target of 20% under the effort-sharing proposal of the European Commission's Climate Change strategy. "Given the relative size of the agriculture sector in Ireland's economy and the high proportion of greenhouse gas emissions coming from our largely animal-based production, the EU target posed particular difficulties for us including the prospect of having to reduce our bovine herd,"Minister Smith added. World demand for food is growing with the possibility of a doubling of meat and dairy consumption globally by 2050. "It is important then to encourage our agriculture and food sectors to respond to these developments in the interests both of global food security and of the pursuit of important market opportunities."

Minister Smith spoke of his concern to avoid taking actions to meet Climate Change commitments which are counter-productive in terms of global greenhouse gas emission levels and that are not in conformity with our objectives for the EU's agriculture and food sector. "I am anxious to ensure that Ireland continues to play a full role in the efficient production of food maximising its strengths in livestock husbandry that is heavily reliant on forage based on grass. We can do this only if a much greater level of flexibility is provided for in the Commission's proposals and Ireland has put forward a number of ideas in this area including securing recognition for carbon sequestration from forest and other sinks."The Minister said that his Department continued to explore various emission mitigation opportunities in the agriculture and food sector and referred to the significant research funding allocated to Climate Change related research in recent years.

In conclusion Minister Smith stressed that any reduction in food production in the EU will be taken up elsewhere, result in a heavier carbon footprint and further diminish the prospect of enhanced global food security. This had to be avoided Minister Smith said and he urged the Commissioner and his fellow Ministers to remain fully engaged in the Climate Change negotiations in the interests of farmers, the food industry, rural dwellers in general and not least global food security.

Date Released: 29 September 2008