Climate Policy for Ruminant Agriculture in Ireland blog series

The relationship between climate change and agriculture is a contentious, complex and important one. In this series of twelve blogs, UCD Adjunct Professor Frank Convery will explore the context, challenges and potential solutions for dairy, beef and sheep farming in Ireland. Each blog presents key evidence to underpin informed debate and the series seeks to help plot a sustainable future for the sector.

Responses are invited via earth.institute@ucd.ie and the UCD Earth Institute will host a workshop in association with the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and the National Economic and Social Council at the end of the series in December 2022 to discuss the evidence and its implications.

Professor Tasman Crowe, Director, UCD Earth Institute

Professor Frank Convery is an environmental economist with a distinguished academic career in Ireland and the US. He has chaired the boards of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Comhar Sustainable Development Council and served on the Climate Change Committee chaired by John FitzGerald, and the AgriFood 2030 Committee chaired by Tom Arnold. The latter produced Food Vision 2030. From 2014 to 2018, he was chief economist with the Environmental Defense Fund, New York.

His passion is finding ways to bring the weight of learning down to where things are done; his ambition for the sector is the same as Food Vision 2030’s: “Ireland will become a world leader in Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) over the next decade. This will deliver significant benefits…and will also provide the basis for the future competitive advantage of the sector”.

Over the course of twelve blog pieces this autumn, Frank will explore past performance and attitudes to the issue of climate policy for ruminant agriculture in Ireland; the emerging metrics revolution; key international markets; and the adequacy of the policy instruments in prospect to drive climate achievement by the sector, what changes would deliver better outcomes. The series will conclude on the need for a mission-focussed effort to find ways that work to reduce ruminant methane emissions at scale.

Their format is simple: an introduction, the key evidence that informs performance and prospects, and an assessment in which Frank presents his opinions as to what the data tells him. The sources of most of the evidence cited is provided, including, where available, links and page numbers. The blogs aim to make it as easy as possible for readers to access and to understand the data, and to encourage them to engage with both using it and finding more and better evidence.   

The debate about the Agri-food sector’s contribution to Ireland’s climate action targets (and how best to meet them) should be informed by top quality science and evidence.  I believe that Frank Convery’s evidence-based blog series, produced in collaboration with UCD’s Earth Institute, will help ensure that the political and public debate debate on this critical issue can be more informed, courteous and balanced than it has been up to now.

Tom Arnold, Irish Government’s Special Envoy for Food Systems

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Header image credit: Giuseppe Milo.

1. Climate Policy for Ruminant Agriculture in Ireland: Looking Back

Ireland has little hope of becoming a world leader in Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) unless it understands and acknowledges the reality of its climate performance, says Professor Frank Convery. Rural Ireland is hugely dependent on the export earnings of its ruminant farming, almost two thirds of which is earned by the dairy sector.  The EU, UK, and the US account for the majority of Ireland’s farming exports by value. Consumers in these markets, and the climate policies that are implemented therein, will determine whether the carbon footprint of Irish farming is competitive in these markets.

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