CAP direct farm payments will be linked to EU climate change targets

Sarah Collins

Farmers will be asked to do more to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock and fertiliser use in the upcoming overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy.

A set of nine objectives under the new CAP, including climate-related targets, will have to be met to receive direct payments under a Commission proposal due around June 1.

Under the new CAP, the EU will monitor climate compliance via mandatory nutrient management plans and will roll out compulsory farm advisory services to encourage precision and digital agriculture.

Ireland has one of the highest levels of agricultural emissions per hectare in the EU, at around twice the EU average.

And livestock density in Ireland has increased by 4.5pc since 2010, largely as a result of the growing dairy herd, while it has fallen on average in the EU.

Agriculture, which makes up 33pc of Irish emissions, is not the only culprit — a lack of investment in cleaner energy and transport has also put paid to Ireland’s chances of meeting its 2020 climate targets.

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan warned the Seanad last month the country is “running into the trouble of perhaps infringement proceedings” after 2020.

Ireland is likely to miss two of its three main 2020 targets, on emission reduction and renewable energy use, facing fines of between €610 million and €5.3 billion, depending on how long the government waits to take action, the Institute for Irish and European Affairs estimates.

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Adding to the pressure, the non-profit group Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) has taken the government to court over its 2015 national mitigation plan, saying it will not be enough to meet the EU targets or the UN’s Paris goals.

“The climate act 2015 is going completely in the wrong direction,” FIE’s Tony Lowes told Farming Independent. “No-one is taking this issue seriously at the political level.”

He added: “This action is not intended to hobble the state and cost it money. We’re actually going to be saving people money if we succeed.”

FIE travelled to the UN climate talks in Bonn last week to present its case. Hearings in the trial are expected to start later this year.

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