Margaret Donnelly: Government must use veto to halt Mercosur beef deal
The Government's Climate Action Plan published last week asks us all to put our shoulder to the wheel in delivering a more sustainable future.
Agriculture - the country's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - has been given a carbon emissions reduction target of 10-15pc by 2030. A sizeable chunk of that is projected to come from increased forestry planting and more diversification, especially on economically marginal farms.
Within days of the plan being published, the Taoiseach had signed a joint letter with France, Belgium and Poland warning that the proposed Mercosur trade deal could threaten the future of agriculture in Europe.
The South American bloc of countries and the EU have been in a long, drawn-out round of trade negotiations for almost 20 years. For both sides, a trade deal is worth billions and would make trading easier on goods and services.
A deal is expected to be agreed this week which will include a beef quota offer to Mercosur of 99,000 tonnes. And while any possible deal must move through the EU's corridors of power, and could falter or even fail at a later date, questions needs to be asked about Europe's green agenda if it approves the importation of thousands of tonnes of beef from Brazil, which has lost more forests than any other country in the world in recent years.
Irish farmers must be able to trade on a level playing field, but the Mercosur deal as it stands would make a mockery of fair trade.
How can the EU permit beef imports from countries that show little interest in even discussing the environmental standards being demanded of farmers here and elsewhere in Europe?
Factor in the possibility of a no-deal Brexit next October, and the Irish beef sector could be facing into an unprecedented winter of discontent.
But we are not powerless in this.
We shouldn't forget that one regional Belgium parliament was able to stall an international trade deal between Europe and Canada in recent years.
Ireland can use its power of veto to stall this Mercosur deal.
Writing letters of protest about the Mercosur beef quota is one thing; do our political leaders have the will to take a stand and say no when the deal is finally on the table?
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