Irish Ag Minister’s Climate Change “voodoo accounting”

Credit: European Union

Irish NGO An Taisce have rounded on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney for what they call “creative accounting”  regarding Ireland’s dairy emissions targets.

According to the NGO, claims made by Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney that the Irish dairy herd can be expanded by over 300,000 cows in the next five years “while maintaining the existing carbon footprint of the agriculture sector” are inaccurate and misleading because a major increase in herd size by will by any objective measure sharply increase dairy emissions.

The NGO was responding to the Minister’s claims on Irish TV that the diary herd size could increase by 25-30% without commensurate increases in emissions from the agriculture sector.

An Taisce’s climate change committee, which includes John Gibbons of Think or Swim, said that this was “completely without foundation in fact.” They pointed out: “The Minister’s claims about higher yields per animal magically causing such dramatic lowering of the carbon footprint per litre of milk as to offset the addition of almost a third of a million dairy cows to the national herd are manifestly false”.

Evidence from Ireland’s Environment Protection Agency refuted the Minister’s claims, the NGO stated: “despite Mr Coveney’s claims about improved emissions efficiency in Ireland’s dairy sector, data from the Environment Protection Agency shows that methane (CH₄) emissions from ‘enteric fermentation’ in Irish dairy cows actually increased, from 101kg per head per annum in 1990 to almost 113kg per head in 2012. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, some 24 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas per molecule than CO₂.

Ireland’s failures with regard to the Nitrates Directive were also highlighted as an important issue “glossed over ” by Simon Coveney. “An extra 300,000 dairy cows means a commensurate rise in agricultural effluent, which when combined with more frequent flooding events, places Irish water courses at heightened risk.”

The European Commission has written to the Irish government with a detailed set of Observations On The Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 . Among these, under the genomics programme:

“The Irish authorities are asked to provide evidence and quantification of the expected decrease in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved. Moreover, evidence of other environmental benefits expected should be provided. Furthermore, indication of any negative consequences on the environment this scheme could have (e.g. increased manure and slurry production) should be given and it should be explained if an impact assessment in this respect has been made. (Note 2) ”

An Taisce concluded that “Minister Coveney now appears to be resorting to voodoo accounting to prop up an entirely misguided agri-industrial growth-at-all-costs policy that goes against science”.


50% of Irish farms fail nitrates directive (November 2013)

Ireland increases allowable nitrate rate on farms (February 2014)

Following campaign lad by Ireland, Agriculture exempt from meaningful GHG reduction targets (October 2014)

Environmental Analysis report presumes full compliance with regulations/directives in Ireland (January 2014)

 Report shows Roscommon Council had no engagement with farmers whose lands surround water scheme subject to boil notice (November 2014)

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Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 184 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC