Creed hits out at 'knee-jerk' response over emissions tax call

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Sarah Collins

Agriculture minister Michael Creed has hit out at a potential green tax on farmers, calling it a "knee-jerk" and "punitive" response to Ireland's climate challenges.

He said agriculture had become a "soft target" for climate activists, after the Citizens' Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from farms.

"I didn't hear the Citizens' Assembly talk about urban Ireland reducing its transport footprint," Mr Creed (pictured) told the Farming Independent in Brussels.

"Agriculture is a soft target primarily because urban Ireland doesn't understand the journey that farmers have been on in terms of reducing their carbon footprint."

Agriculture accounts for over a third of Ireland's total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency - the largest overall emitter and significantly higher than any other EU country.

But the Irish Farmers' Association says agricultural emissions have fallen by 6pc since 1990, despite output increasing by over 40pc, and pointed to greenhouse gas emissions from transport rising by 130pc in the same period.

The Government has admitted that it will miss its 2020 EU emissions reduction target, with Professor John FitzGerald, chair of the government's Climate Change Advisory Council, telling the Citizens' Assembly on Sunday that it would do so by "a substantial margin".

But Mr Creed said the Government was helping farmers do their bit by investing in the beef data and genomics programme, the Glas agri-environment scheme and afforestation plans.

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"A taxation on agriculture for carbon emissions seems like a knee-jerk response in a vacuum, unaware of what we are doing already," Mr Creed said.

"We have a lot of levers in terms of the agricultural community already and I don't think a punitive taxation approach would be helpful, and I don't think it would enable us to achieve our potential as a food producing island in a sustainable way," Mr Creed said.

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