Sustainability and climate change are pressing challenges which need immediate action globally. Collectively, greenhouse gases arise from several sectors including energy production (e.g. electricity, oil, gas), transport (e.g. aviation, road vehicles), industry (e.g. air conditioning, electronics), waste (e.g. incineration) and agriculture (e.g. ruminant belching, fertilisers). The United Nations (UN) estimates that livestock contributes to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with 2.7% coming from milk production. Therefore, while dairy is a contributor to global warming, it is not the main driver.
The dairy industry has committed to working towards reducing its emissions by signing the Dairy Declaration in 2016, to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It continues to build on work from the previous 10 years, which achieved an 11% decrease in dairy’s global emissions intensity.
Also, on a national level, Dairy Sustainability Ireland was established in 2016, to help farmers meet environmental targets in Ireland.
Improvements in soil fertility, water quality and nutrient management are three focus areas which will significantly enhance the sustainable performance of Irish dairy by further reducing the environmental impact.