Irish dairy farmers continue to bear the brunt of criticism for the nation’s failure to meet their ‘ambitious’ climate targets.
Gearóid Maher, a fifth-generation Irish dairy farmer, planted chicory, plantain, brassica, kale leaves and clover to reduce his 210-acre farm’s emissions in Cappamore.
He also halved his nitrogen use and eliminated pesticides on his produce, but that wasn’t enough. “There’s no chemical sprays or fertilizers. This is ready for grazing,” Maher told the Financial Times.
The Irish government wants to reduce its emissions by 51% at the decade’s end to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. Farming constitutes roughly 40% of its emissions.
Months ago, the Irish government proposed culling 200,000 of the island’s 1.6 million dairy cows over the next three years to reduce the flatulence they release into the atmosphere.
According to the Financial Times, cattle belch methane — the gas responsible for a quarter of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The drastic cut is expected to achieve a 25% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030, helping the island nation counter their rising emissions last year — among the highest across the European Union (EU).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, progress has been painfully slow, with carbon emissions falling only 1.9% last year. Farmers cut 1.2% of that — a turnaround from a 3.6% uptick in 2021.
Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council said they would not meet their targets “unless urgent action is taken.”
Dairy farmers, who have increased herd numbers by 38% in the past decade, feel they are taking the blame for the slow progress.
“It’s almost like there’s a bullseye on our backs,” said Maher, 38, who has 110 cows. “The media portray us as climate killers and climate deniers. We are the first to see climate change. We are doing our bit to change things.”
The dairy industry is worth €13.1 billion a year to the Irish economy, supporting 54,000 jobs and bringing in a record €6.8 billion in exports last year.
Should Ireland cull 200,000 dairy cows, it would be equivalent to removing 1 million cars off the roads.
Under the government’s proposal, farmers would receive a payment of €3,000 per cow, up to almost €200 million annually.
The agriculture ministry said officials “are currently working to explore” the reduction proposal further.