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Smith Calls for Coherent Action on Food Security and Climate Change

Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has called on the EU to urgently develop an overall strategy to address the twin challenges of achieving food security and dealing effectively with climate change. Speaking at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Vaxjo, Sweden, he called for "a robust process that balances our food production objectives with climate change mitigation and adaptation." 

Minister Smith stressed that Ireland fully supports the climate change goals agreed by Heads of State and Government. "In my view, agreement at the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December is critical if we are to deal effectively with the threats posed by global warming", he said.

Minister Smith noted that in addressing the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we must at the same time be aware of the need to double global food production over the next forty years and the need to ensure security of food supply in Europe. "I believe that the EU should assume a lead role in the effort to ensure sustainable food production in Europe, and to achieve global food security while effectively addressing the challenges of climate change. These objectives will not be easy to reconcile. However, improved efficiency and productivity has already had a significant impact on GHG emissions from European agriculture. Much has been achieved through better farm management, progress in animal breeding and better use of fertiliser."

He noted that, in Ireland's case, efficiency improvements have led to a reduction of about 12% in the methane emissions associated with each tonne of milk output since 1990. Emissions from agriculture represent 27% of Ireland's overall emissions and almost 40% of Ireland's non-trading sector emissions. This is the highest level of any Member State. 

Minister Smith said that carbon efficiency could be further improved somewhat, without reducing food production. But he also expressed concern that the scale of the challenge of climate change, and the manner in which we choose to address it, may result in unintended negative impacts, both in terms of Europe's role in global food production and global Greenhouse Gas emissions levels. The Minister also called for the consolidation of European research into technologies that will deliver mitigation and assist in adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.

Minister Smith used the occasion of this special council to raise once again the problems in the dairy sector and to discuss with Commissioner Fischer Boel and a number of other ministers the need for continued and increased support. Minister Smith has been working closely with a large number of other member states, who together have presented a paper to the commission outlining a range of measures required for the sector, and will also travel next week to Paris for a bi-lateral meeting with his newly appointed French counterpart at which the dairy sector will feature strongly.

Date Released: 15 September 2009