Hogan Addresses IFA Conference on Growing the Agri-Food Sector

Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D.,Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government today (16, January, 2013) addressed the  IFA conference – Growing the Agri-Food Sector sustainably. The purpose of the conference  is to facilitate debate and an exchange of views regarding the development of climate policy, as it relates to the agri-food sector.

 

At the conference the Minister highlighted the important contribution of the food and drink sector to the Irish economy.  “The sector has delivered strong export growth at a time when both economies generally and various business sectors across Europe and beyond are struggling to overcome sustained recessionary pressures.  From such a position of strength, and with further opportunity for growth, particularly on the dairy side, the positive outlook for the agri-food sector is both encouraging and welcome,” he said.

 

The Minister outlined the challenges for the Agri-Food sector, he added “given the size of the sector relative to our overall economy, the impact of agricultural activity on our greenhouse gas emissions profile has emerged as perhaps the most difficult climate policy challenge we face.  It is, and will remain, central to the national effort to make an early and effective transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and climate-resilient economy.  I do not believe that it is going too far to say that the achievement of a competitive and environmentally sustainable long-term plan for the Irish agri-food sector would be a defining element of our overall success on transition to a low-carbon future.”

 

The Minister  spoke of the  ambitious objective which the IFA have in Food Harvest 2020 and the challenge of realising  that objective. He also commended their ambition and continued determination in this area. But he cautioned, “However, if you as a sector fail to look beyond a compliance-based approach to protecting the natural resources on which the standards and success of your business and your livelihoods are so dependent, I find it hard to believe that you will achieve the level of ambition which you have set for yourself in Food Harvest 2020.  A further and even greater concern is the real risk that the foundation on which you build growth in the sector in the period to 2020 will prove uncompetitive on environmental grounds in the evolving global green economy.”

 

In addressing the broader environmental agenda the Minister highlighted some of the other areas of pressure such as  waste management, and air and water quality and he spoke on the challenges of and progress on the national responses to climate change..  In particular he mentioned the decision taken by Government last year to mandate a number of sectoral greenhouse gas mitigation plans or roadmaps.  Provisions to give this sectoral mitigation planning process a statutory basis will be included in the outline Heads of the Climate Bill to be published early this year.

 

“We know what needs to be done in terms of mitigation planning at a sectoral level and the Government has decided to get on with it.  The key sectors are energy, the built environment, transport and agriculture.  While virtual zero emissions in 2050 will be the context for the development of sectoral roadmaps on energy, transport and the built environment, a carbon neutral approach is more appropriate in the case of the agriculture sector.  The objective is to finalise these sectoral roadmaps – which will include a reasonable period of public consultation in each case – by the end of October this year,” he ended.

 

In closing the Minister wished the delegates well  in the weeks and months ahead  in their critically important input to the development of the sectoral mitigation roadmap for the agriculture sector .

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