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Independent.ie

Saturday 22 July 2017

Agriculture committee unveil radical forestry CO2 proposals

Ireland aims to increase the level of forestry cover from 11pc of the country's total area to 18pc
Ireland aims to increase the level of forestry cover from 11pc of the country's total area to 18pc
Sean Kelly MEP. Photo: Pat Moore.

Sarah Collins

Agriculture Committee MEPs have tabled proposals that would make it easier to use forests to offset carbon emissions under the EU's draft 2030 climate and energy rules.

In a report adopted last week, MEPs asked that "forest management" - which involves conservation rather than planting new trees - be factored into EU rules, and voted to hike available carbon credits for forests and grasslands from 280 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to 425 million.

They say the approach is in line with the 2015 Paris climate deal and reflects "the concerns related to the lower mitigation potential in the agriculture sector".

But their suggestions have been rubbished by climate NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), which says that reducing emissions in farming is no more difficult than in other sectors.

A report commissioned by the group says that using cover or catch crops and crop rotation could aid soil nutrition and drastically reduce farming emissions.

"There is a myth that agriculture cannot reduce emissions," said Carlos Calvo Ambel, T&E's transport and energy analyst. "There is no reason why agriculture should be given a free ride."

The MEPs' position is at odds with a draft report by environment MEPs, who are in the lead on the issue and want to slash forestry credits to 190 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The 2030 targets, proposed by the EU last July, commit the bloc to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40pc compared to 1990 in all sectors of the economy.


Ireland is being asked to slash emissions by 30pc by 2030, compared to 2005, in transport, buildings, agriculture, and waste, as part of the overall target, with generous offsets for forests, grassland and the fact that the country is not heavily industrialised.

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly (pictured) says Parliament's final position, due to be put to a vote in the summer, is likely to "put an extra burden on agriculture".

Deal

But he said he hopes that the positions will soften once MEPs go into three-way talks with the Commission and EU governments. The bloc wants to ink a final deal by the end of the year.

Farming emissions make up over a third of total emissions in Ireland, the largest share in the EU.

Ireland is already slated to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets.

In their report, agriculture MEPs also asked for more aid for precision agriculture and other climate-friendly practices, and called on the bloc to take account of Brexit in the 2030 targets.

MEPs propose doubling some CAP payments

Young and small farmers could see their EU subsidies doubled under changes to the Common Agricultural Policy proposed by MEPs. Other proposals include doubling the farm size threshold for farmers having to implement the three-crop rule, to between 15 and 30 hectares.

But environmental NGOs have hit out at the proposals via an amendment to the EU's budget rules.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) says MEPs are "effectively attempting to pre-empt official political CAP reform negotiations".

Public consultation on the CAP post-2020 closed last week after receiving 320,000 responses from all 28 EU countries. A white paper on the future of the CAP will be published this year with legislation expected in early 2018.

Brexit talks timetable

EU officials have confirmed that Irish concerns will not be a priority in the first phase of Brexit talks.

Following the publication of the bloc’s more detailed negotiating stance, a senior EU official said Ireland’s concerns would be addressed in detail during a second phase of talks dealing with trade.

The EU expects talks to begin some time in June, following the UK elections. It hopes to agree broad principles on the Irish border by the November.


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