A lobby group has called for a “food revolution” in Ireland to bring about a significant change in dietary habits that would “protect public health and the environment”. The Climate and Health Alliance has published a new paper, entitled Fixing Food Together, which states that the Irish farming industry must be a “key part of the solution”. Current eating habits in Ireland are described as a “slow-motion disaster unfolding before our eyes”. The global food system is capable of feeding the world, but it has also made people heavier and sicker, polluted rivers and air, destroyed wildlife and produced a third of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate and Health Alliance, which is made up of 17 members from various public health organisations and advocacy groups, aims to “highlight the enormous public health harms that arise from climate change while emphasising the significant health benefits that can be unlocked by tackling global warming”. The position paper released today calls for food systems to work with nature and not contribute to further degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity collapse. The alliance has urged the government to establish a cabinet sub-committee to oversee a food revolution, with the farming industry playing a key role. It has also recommended six key areas where it believes Ireland needs to drive change to create a healthier, more sustainable food system.
The alliance has specifically referenced recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Teagasc and the Environment Protection Agency in relation to Area 5. The Climate and Health Alliance stated in its paper that “the huge land requirement to produce protein with cattle prevents carbon removal through reforesting and restoring Ireland’s main native ecosystem, temperate rainforest”. The alliance highlighted that the agriculture sector is “being tasked with changing the way it uses land so that it does more than just produce food”. The alliance has emphasised the need to support farmers to help sequester carbon and restore biodiversity and nature. “Our two greatest challenges in land use are how we use Irish land and how we pay Irish farmers,” the alliance said. It is “essential” that farmers are supported to produce food in a way that “protects, conserves and restores nature”.
The Climate and Health Alliance’s new paper was published alongside research commissioned by the Irish Heart Foundation. The Ipsos research suggests that one in five people “understand how large an impact reducing our intake of red and processed meat or ultra-processed foods will have on lowering greenhouse gases”. The survey also showed that 64% of people believe the government “is not providing enough funding or support to farmers to encourage climate-change practices”.