Opposition politicians have labeled a 25% emissions reduction for Ireland’s agricultural sector “a failure” on climate action, while a farmers’ lobbying group said it was a “potentially devastating blow for Irish farming”.
On Thursday, the Government agreed on a compromise target of a 25% emissions reduction for agriculture, after it failed to agree on targets at the last Cabinet meeting before the summer recess.
It set a 50% reduction for transport and a 75% reduction for the electricity sector.
While farmers will be expected to reduce carbon emissions by 25% over the eight years, it is expected that a significant suite of supports will be introduced from this year’s budget onwards to incentivise them to make changes to how they use their land.
It is understood that included in this will be supported over the coming years to develop anaerobic digestion systems on farms and increased grants of up to 60% to install solar panels on the roofs of sheds and other farm buildings.
The agreement comes after lengthy wrangling between Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan, who had been pushing strongly to set agriculture emissions at the upper limit of 30%, and his coalition partners.
Mr Ryan had faced significant pushback from Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, as well as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil backbenchers, who had argued in favor of a target closer to 22%.
Both Ministers had come closer to an agreement in recent days, with Mr McConalogue holding out on 24% and Mr Ryan arguing for 26%.
Labor leader Ivana Bacik said it was “unfortunate” to see a target at the mid-range instead of on the higher end of the 22-30% range that was outlined in the Government’s Climate Action Plan.
“It’s unfortunate that Government has landed on just a 25% emissions target for the agriculture sector when all the science is clear – the sector must have reductions of closer to 30% to have some hope of offsetting the impact of climate change.”
People Before Profit/Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said that the 25% target set for agriculture was “yet another Green Party failure”.
“Agriculture accounts for 37% of Ireland’s emissions – a 25% reduction by 2030 is hopelessly inadequate,” he said.
Solidarity TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry said that “no one who takes the issue of climate change seriously could support this deal”.
Social Democrats climate spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore said the 25% reduction in carbon emissions for the agricultural sector represents “a shocking failure” by Government to listen to the science.
“This deal clearly demonstrates the Government are not prepared to, or capable of, making the tough decisions required to deal with climate change,” she said.
“Instead, they have chosen to ignore the independent advice and this deal has fallen far short of the target needed for us to meet our climate targets.
“Unfortunately, it appears, Government ministers and TDs were more interested in protecting their seats rather than protecting the environment and the future of our rural communities.
“The onus is now on the Government to clearly spell out which sector is going to have to make up for this shortfall and their lack of ambition when it comes to agricultural reform and climate action.”
This was echoed by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, who said that the announcement amounts to an “enormous blow to the climate goals and environmental movement in this country”.
She said the deal “represented a victory by big agri-food business interests who have profited enormously from the current model and not farmers, the majority of whom are losing out under this failed model and will continue to lose out. It is this export-driven model which is driving emissions rises.”
She added: “This is not what the science tells us needs to happen, not what the extremes in weather are telling us needs to happen and not what the climate movement expects from the Greens in government.”
In a statement, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan says that the 25% reduction in emissions for the agriculture sector is “a potentially devastating blow” for Irish farming.
“This deal between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is all about the survival of the Government rather than the survival of rural Ireland.
“The Government has agreed to a target without any pathway to get there or any budget to assist farmers to reduce emissions. They have no idea of the economic and social impact of today’s decision on the farming sector or rural Ireland.
“Farmers across the country will be rightly worried about what this means for their future.
“The implementation plan to achieve the target will be vital.
“I want to make it clear that any attempt to undermine farmers’ livelihoods or the viability of the sector, in order to achieve these targets, will be opposed vigorously by the IFA,” he said.
Speaking onFianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe acknowledged there were “many representatives in Fianna Fail who are arguing that there were unique conditions in farming, but every sector will have challenges.
“This is a radical and a significant shift in behavior both at national and at sectoral level and today marks the start of that, and at least each now sector knows the challenge that they face, and we need to get on with that.”