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‘Pseudoscience’ of the Kyoto Treaty may wreak havoc on rural Ireland, writes farming columnist Joe Melody.

During the summer I was asked to speak at a conference that was to be held in Helsinki this autumn. The conference was titled European Rural Entrepreneurship Voices. Unfortunately, due to climbing coronavirus cases in Finland, the conference had to migrate to the online medium of Zoom. Nonetheless it was a very informative afternoon. The overall theme of the conference was on the future of food production in the EU and the role of rural entrepreneurs to invigorate the rural parts of Europe.

One thing that was made implicit by the speakers was that they were farming in harmony with their climate and ecosystem. One example was the farmer producing reindeer in Lapland who spoke of the important role reindeer play in keeping vibrant polar ecosystem balanced with a healthy pasture interspersing the forests.

It was wonderful to see the level of innovation some of speakers had undertaken on their farms to further strengthen their business model. It ranged from a farmer in Slovakia whose family farm was milking two and a half thousand cows and had diversified through building an on farm hotel and restaurant alongside game hunting on farm, to an organic vegetable producer in Austria who had built a thriving business on a small footprint of only a few acres. The common thread of these farmers was their business was a good fit for their region.

Our own farm business is emblematic of the wider grass based Irish livestock industry, we are in a unique position in Ireland in that our livestock graze outdoors for most of the year. This is an anomalous situation to the majority of the worlds food producers.

I came out of this EU funded conference feeling inspired and with a renewed sense that opportunity is lurking in every corner for rural Ireland and all that is needed is some creative thinking and less bureaucracy.

Unfortunately my optimism is set against the backdrop of a witch-hunt against Irish agriculture led by the Green Party. Almost two decades ago, the Irish Government ratified the Kyoto treaty which uses only above ground measures for accounting of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is an incomplete science to say the least as it takes no account of all the carbon that is sequestered into the roots of our grasslands and hedgerows. Our Government sought for a derogation to extend using the Kyoto protocols for accounting of emissions until 2030.

Many commentators who engage in environmental sloganeering will retort the line ‘follow the science’ to anyone who questions the growing vilification of agriculture. However an incomplete science is no science whatsoever. Many EU countries have chosen to adopt the accounting methods for emissions as laid out in the Paris agreement. The Paris Agreement takes into account all sources of greenhouse gas emissions and crucially sequestration.

France has adopted this method and this now means French farmers are generating soil carbon credits which are now being used to offset the nation’s emissions. This has led to France being cited by the OECD as best in class as the country has achieved 12% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2020.

Ireland is far ahead of France in terms of pasture cover and if we adopted the Paris protocols we could emphatically illustrate how sustainable Irish agriculture really is.

2030 is a long time away and the damage that will be wreaked upon rural Ireland through the pseudoscience of the Kyoto Treaty might not be so easily undone.

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