The Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency has said any further plans to expand the dairy herd are unsustainable, pending evidence and the implementation of effective solutions to greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Laura Burke said said "pending evidence and implementation of effective solutions to the ongoing, unsustainable air and water emissions, any further plans for further intensification or expansion of the dairy herd is unsustainable".
She said as part of the 2019 Climate Action Plan, there was a commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions but the current strategy was insufficient.
"The strategy that's currently written has less ambition than that. So that's just not sustainable, that's not going to cut it," she said.
"We need significant reductions above and beyond what's already committed to and not a backtracking in what's already there," she added.
She said projections based on all the current policies and measures amount to a 24% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, while the policy is for a 51% reduction.
The 24% figure is based on 70% renewables generated for our electricity system, 600,000 heat pumps in our homes and half a million homes being retro-fitted.
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"It's clear that agriculture practices are one of the main pressures for the decline in water quality nationally and are also responsible for one third of our green house gas emissions and over 99% of our ammonia emissions," Ms Burke added.
She said the economic growth in the agri-food sectors in recent years is happening at the expense of the environment.
She said there was a reduction overall in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in 2019, but they went back up again in 2020.
Ms Burke said the EPA did not want to pit the agriculture sector against the rest of the society as all sectors need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
She said there are options such as using different types of fertilisers or more sustainable slurry spread, but it needs to go above that.
She said the agriculture sector has been dominated by policy-driven economic growth.
Ms Burke said there is a need to look at how to incentivise the types of behaviour that support new types of activities in agriculture that are environmentally sustainable.