Permanent TSB has released a comprehensive survey conducted by Kantar research of Irish people’s attitude to combat climate change. It’s a mixed bag, to say the least.
In terms of farming and food, the lead finding is that a massive gap exists between the sentiment people express and their actions.
While over half say they are willing to change what they eat to help tackle climate change, only 30% have replaced a meat product with a vegetarian alternative even once in the last three months. Perhaps it’s good news for the agri-food sector, showing that while Ireland is pro-environment it does not mean it is anti-meat.
It’s not surprising that only 6% believe that the most important issue facing Ireland is our changing climate
Or maybe it points to a sense that while people say they will make changes, they aren’t going to, and expect others to change for them. With that in mind, is there an appetite for a vast increase in organic produce on our shelves? And what price premium are people willing to pay for organic food?
It’s not surprising that only 6% believe that the most important issue facing Ireland is our changing climate. Some aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is ceaselessly the dominant story on every news bulletin. Our society and economy has been transformed to tackle that threat; naturally, people think of it.
However, it is surprising that only one in four believe that climate change features in the top three issues. Twenty-seven per cent believe there isn’t enough evidence to link our personal behaviour to climate change.
Cost of transformation
For farming, which has to cut its emissions by at least 22%, there can be no great optimism that consumers are willing to share the cost of that transformation.
Some will say that the CAP and carbon tax funds are in place for just that job, so food production shouldn’t be more expensive, and nor should supermarket prices. However, this thinking forgets that food production costs are rising exponentially, in part due to fossil fuel costs (diesel and fertiliser).
And CAP payments no longer support production in a direct way.
Almost half say they accept we all have personal responsibility
That said, only 19% hold that agriculture bears primary responsibility for tackling climate change, less than business, heavy industry, the UN, our government or other governments. Almost half say they accept we all have personal responsibility.
If the message could be relayed to consumers that more considered food purchasing, leading to a reduction in food waste, would save money for the shopper and cut their own and farming’s carbon footprint, we might be on the right road.