Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

'EU budget rules hampering investment in smart farming and investment' - Naughten

Ireland looking for additional leeway to meet 2030 climate change targets

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

Sarah Collins

The government is seeking leniency on EU budget deficit rules and extra funding to help meet its 2030 climate targets.

Environment minister Denis Naughten (pictured) said EU rules are hampering investment in smart farming, climate-friendly transport and renewable energies.

"It restricts the ability of governments to actually borrow to help to meet our 2030 targets," Mr Naughten said, "and we have significant amounts of money that will be required to be spent between now and 2030 if we're going to reach those targets.

"So the Commission has to meet us halfway in relation to that," he told the Farming Independent.

EU rules say budget deficits should not go beyond 3pc of GDP, and that spending should not outpace economic growth. Governments can be fined if they exceed the limits.

But the Irish Government is seeking to bend the rules when it comes to infrastructure investment.

It would mean, for example, keeping loans or guarantees from the European Investment Bank (EIB), the bloc's long-term lending arm, off the Government's books. Ireland will be looking for extra EU and EIB funding to help meet its targets.

"We are being set very aggressive targets for 2050 and for 2030.

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"We're never going to achieve them unless we can put the investment in, and the Government itself doesn't have access to that type of capital," said Mr Naughten (left).

EU countries have yet to agree on the 2030 climate targets proposed by the Commission last July. Ireland was asked to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30pc on 2005 levels, but will be allowed to offset the cuts by transferring carbon market credits or planting more forests.

The EU says Ireland is already off track on its 2020 targets, which Mr Naughten says were "very hard to achieve in the first place". Farming makes up the bulk of Ireland's emissions - over a third - with transport coming in a close second. "Yes farming needs to change, and farmers traditionally are slow to change, and that is a challenge for us," admitted Mr Naughten.

But he pointed to the success of schemes like the beef data and genomics project, a kind of 'designer baby' database to help farmers breed the most resource-efficient suckler cows.

He said the government was also supporting farmers who produce biomass crops that can be used for fuel.

Irish farmers needed to be treated with some leniency, he said, because they "will be producing food not just for Ireland but for Europe as a whole".

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