IRELAND is literally belching out more greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture than any other country in the European Union.
Cow burps and farts are being blamed on the Emerald Isle topping the emissions league of European nations ahead of Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark, with Britain coming a 12th out of 28 on the Eurostat list.
Ireland’s now booming post-recession food production sector has seen the country’s cattle population reach seven million, with milk and beef making up 70 per cent of its agricultural output, according to EU website Politico.
The Republic is also now the fifth largest beef exporter in the world and the largest European exporter, leaving just 10 per cent of what it produces for the domestic market.
The Irish Government is hoping to offset emissions by planting new forests which absorb carbon dioxide from cows, with a target of 18 per cent of the country covered in trees by 2046.
Difficult EU negotiations are currently underway between Ireland, coal-reliant Poland and livestock-heavy Netherlands and Denmark over goals for cutting EU on greenhouse gasses outside of the Emissions Trading System between 2020 and 2030.
Some argue that Ireland should be investing in more sustainable framing methods.
“It goes back to the whole focus which emerged in 2011, that Ireland would add milk volumes rather than looking at climate-friendly or climate-smart agriculture,” said James Nix, director of the nonprofit Green Budget Europe.
“In essence, the policy makers went for more of the same without thinking ‘Oh, hang on, this will have climate consequences,” he added, speaking to Politico.
But others say that because Ireland has relatively benign industrial and manufacturing sectors compared with other EU countries like Germany, it should be allowed secure emissions credits from the Commission for planting new forests.
“Agriculture has not benefitted from the offsetting value of Ireland’s afforestation,” Ireland MEP Mairead McGuinness told Politico.
"Ireland’s current level of forestry is 10 per cent of land area, compared to an EU average of 30 per cent, so there is scope for further increased afforestation,” she added.
In 2011, the top carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters were China, the United States, the European Union, India, the Russian Federation, Japan, and Canada.