The world spotlight is currently on Dubai as the United Nations annual climate change summit, COP28, kicked off this week.  Bringing together over 70,000 people from around 200 countries, delegates will perform a global stocktake of the progress made by countries towards the 2015 Paris Agreement of keeping global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius, aimed at avoiding the most damaging impacts of climate change. 

Closer to home, climate change remains high on the agenda with various events taking place over the past week, notably the packed-out ruminant methane mitigation conference hosted by the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS). 

Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas, belched by ruminants as a result of enteric fermentation.  The complexity of the biological processes involved were clearly outlined by Professor Sharon Huws of Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), who indicated the opportunities for further research and development of potential solutions.  

However, it was reassuring to note that a wealth of research is currently underway and that various proven technologies already exist and are available on the market, such as feed additives.  Whilst there are currently difficulties with implementing some of these feed additives in grazing systems, the science is constantly evolving in this space and solutions are on the horizon. 

The policy challenge that remains is how all of this research and development will be accounted for within our national inventory to incentivise and credit those using the different technologies at farm level.  

The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) is the first link in the food chain and as such is cognisant of the environmental impact farm inputs can have along the supply chain.  NIGTA is fully committed to supporting the industry in developing and deploying a range of solutions to reduce environmental emissions.  Many NIGTA members are engaged in research and development, as well as providing professional and targeted advice at farm level on precision nutrition and better nutrient management, which are integral components of the toolkit needed for reducing environmental emissions as well as improving productivity and efficiency on farm.  Generally speaking, a more efficient farm tends to be more profitable with a lower environmental footprint, which is the ultimate goal.

The need to recognise the interconnectedness of agriculture and the importance of food security was highlighted by Lord Deben during his keynote speech at QUB, which followed the BSAS conference.  He remarked that food should be seen as a public good and to achieve food security will require agriculture to become more efficient as well as adapting to changing weather patterns.  To produce food properly, Lord Deben made clear that livestock are needed, but at the same time emissions must be reduced. 

Luckily many of the solutions exist, and more are on their way, providing the local agricultural industry with opportunities to make a positive contribution to food security and the wider environment.