Farmers are performing better than other sectors such as transport or industry when it comes to bringing down emissions, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Fine Gael leader said “farmers are doing a lot together quite frankly to bring down emissions” and that he believes “we’ll see emissions fall next year” after “they didn’t last year” but “did the two years before”.

The Minister for Enterprise was speaking at the National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday.

‘Turn the tide’

However, Tánaiste Varadkar said that “we’re going to have serious problems in agriculture” if Ireland doesn’t “turn the tide on climate change”. He said farmers will face not having sufficient water and that their soil is going to be dry if they don’t address climate change.

“We all do have to take responsibility for climate change because it is about what we eat and how we fly and how much electricity we use and that’s the truth of it. Climate change has been caused by people, by all of us.

“We have to be the generation that turns the tide on climate change and biodiversity and we all have to work together to achieve that. And I believe farmers are doing a lot together quite frankly.”

‘Practical approach’

The Fine Gael lead called for a “practical approach” to climate measures for farmers.

“Now that we have a target, whether its 25% in agriculture, or 35% in industry or 80% in energy or transport, we all have to work together to try and achieve that target. And it needs to be a partnership because it’s in all of our interests.

“If we don’t turn the tide on climate change, the value of the farm that we want to pass on to our sons and daughters is going to be a lot less. It makes sense that we work together on this and I think we can.”

Ukraine war

The Tánaiste highlighted how the war in Ukraine exposes “how vulnerable large parts of the world are to food [insecurity]”.

“The export of grain has been disrupted because of the war and also the price of fertiliser.

“We know that the climate crisis can cause famine and hunger. We also know that food insecurity can cause famine and hunger. So, that teaches us that we have to deal with the climate crisis without reducing food production.

“If you’re dying of hunger, you’re dying of hunger. You’re not going to say whether the cause is the climate crisis - you’re still dying of hunger. And that underlines to me the core message that we need to not solve one crisis and create another and we need to ensure we can maintain the current levels of food production,” he said.

Varadkar said production “might shift from one food to the other but we need to maintain the amount of calories and the amount of food that we produce or we’ll just create a different problem”.