Lack of food systems discussion at COP26 is entirely unacceptable


The lack of discussion around food systems at the COP26 conference in Glasgow is entirely unacceptable and the same approach cannot be taken here in Ireland, the Environmental Pillar has said. 

Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups has closely been following the ongoing negotiations in Scotland and while there have been some overall positive developments resulting from the conference, the Environmental Pillar was dismayed to see agriculture did not have a dedicated day of discussion as did other big emitting areas. [1] 

The final text to emerge from COP26 also has no mention of food production, which is even further evidence that world leaders are not taking its contribution to the climate crisis seriously. 

Globally, how we produce our food accounts for twenty per cent of total emissions and as the Environmental Pillar has long-pointed out: Ireland sits way above that international average. 

The latest available EPA data shows that well-over a third of our emissions come from agriculture and unsustainable practices continues to wreak havoc on our water quality and our biodiversity. [2] 

This trend has been largely driven by disastrous, industry-led blueprints that also fail to meet the needs of farmers. According to a Department of Agriculture survey, less than 20 percent of primary producers agreed that the national Food Wise 2025 strategy was able to deliver on its vision of thriving producers and industry. [3]

Given these aforementioned environmental and societal impacts, the Environmental Pillar is urging the Government to ensure that the sector does its fair share by setting an emissions target at the very top of the range outlined in the Climate Action Plan last week. 

The Pillar also welcomes the COP26 conference increasing global financing for forestry and the commitment to end deforestation by the end of the decade. However, any afforestation taking place must take into account the ongoing biodiversity crisis and ensure that the right trees are planted in the right places. [4] 

Environmental Pillar co-ordinator Karen Ciesielski said: 

“We know we are in the throes of a climate and biodiversity crisis, and while global leaders have been repeating that line time and time again for the past few weeks – failing to address a fifth of the problem doesn’t match that sentiment. 

We’ve seen no language or even mention around agriculture or food production in this final document, only further proving this point. 

We cannot allow this to continue both internationally and here at home. 

The Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, yet the latest decarbonisation ranges published in the Climate Action Plan certainly wouldn’t indicate that our Government sees this moment as a crisis. 

The sectoral ranges issued in last week’s Climate Action Plan also fail to reflect this sense of emergency, as the lower half of these figures are not remotely in the area of the emissions cuts we need to see. 

At the bare minimum, each sector needs to be performing at the very top of these parameters, which includes a 30 percent reduction for agriculture.

Ignoring a sector’s contribution doesn’t mean the emissions magically disappear – it means we aren’t dealing with them. Given the devastation we are already seeing now at 1.1 C of warming, there is simply no time for omission. 

This Government must step up and treat this like the emergency they say this is and ensure that our largest emitting sectors play their fair part.” 



[1] Throughout COP26, each day has had a different theme – including energy, transport and finance. However, food systems and agriculture was notably absent as a category from the conference’s schedule: 

[2] “The impact on 2020 greenhouse gas emissions of Covid-19 restrictions” from the EPA is available at; EPA data on water quality in Ireland can be found at;  More information on the decline of biodiversity is available at: 

[3] The results from a Public Consultation survey on AgriFood 2030 led by the Department of Agriculture published in October 2019 can be read in full at: 

[4] The full global finance forestry pledge is available at: