Scientist backs tax on Ireland's food processors
One of the country's leading climate scientists has said a carbon tax on food processors will have to be considered if Ireland wants to expand its agriculture sector.
Professor John Sweeney of Maynooth University said motorists and householders already paid carbon taxes on fuels, and that unless the agri-food sector was taken into a similar system it would be difficult to reduce emissions.
His comments came as talks on striking a global deal to tackle climate change went right down to the wire, with a final draft agreement expected early this morning.
It is hoped almost 200 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) will agree to the text, and reduce emissions while limiting average global temperature rises to no more than 2C.
Prof Sweeney, who was part of the UN team awarded the Nobel Prize for its research on climate change, said while the proposed deal had many positive aspects, it would require countries to be more ambitious. He also said if the Government wanted to expand the beef and dairy sectors, a carbon tax on food would have to be considered.
While the Government hoped to get special treatment from the EU for the agriculture sector at negotiations next year, with our growing economy it would be hard to argue we could not afford to make cuts.
"Our GDP is growing, so I don't expect to see any special favours," he said. "It will be incumbent for every country to carry their share of the burden. I can't see how agriculture will escape. I think the food companies have to come into the net. I don't see Ireland getting special treatment for agriculture, in the same way that Germany won't get it for cars and Poland for coal.
"Motorists pay a carbon tax for their cars, and householders pay it for fuel bills, but there's no carbon tax for agriculture. I would see the food companies, and not the farmers, being brought into the net there. If you're buying 100 litres of milk, and carbon has a price per tonne, they would pay on that.
"You need something to reduce emissions. It may have been feasible to increase dairy if you got rid of the suckler cow herd under Food Harvest 2020, but under Foodwise 2025 that proposal is gone and we will have 300,000 extra dairy cows."
All parties must agree the text before it can be ratified, meaning if agreement cannot be struck, the Paris Climate Summit will be deemed a failure.