Danger new climate change moves will be seen as anti-rural - Bruton

Richard Bruton has warned that the window opportunity to tackle climate change is closing (Niall Carson/PA)
Richard Bruton has warned that the window opportunity to tackle climate change is closing (Niall Carson/PA)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

In his strongest indication yet that the agriculture sector faces tougher climate change targets new Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton admitted that there is a danger his plans will be seen as anti-rural.

Mr Bruton has secured Government approval to develop a new climate plan, and has warned that the cost of not meeting climate commitments would "grow very significantly" from 2020.

"We will be bringing forward new policies to significantly step up our ambitions. We are now setting about nailing down what those ambitions will be," he said this week.

The Minister said he had met with heads of Government departments this week to assess the measures that could be enacted to drive ambition.

Speaking to Senators on the issue, the Minister said: "people speak about agriculture and about being particularly nervous about the path they might have to travel.

"However, if one projects oneself forward to 2050, when we know that even the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is talking about carbon being valued at €265/t, the type of farming that will be competitive and have bright prospects for its future and for giving people a good livelihood will be dramatically different in that world.

"If we do not start on a pathway to achieve the expectations of an agriculture that will be competitive in 2040 and 2050 we will have failed those who are entering farming today," he said.

"We must design nudges, carrots and sticks to help people engage with the sort of change that is needed.

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"I also recognise that there is a danger that people in agricultural and rural areas will see it as anti-rural, and we must ensure we bring those people with us and convince them that if they do not develop a decarbonised approach to their sectors and way of life, they will handicap the capacity of Irish agriculture to be competitive in the years ahead.

"It is not a case of us telling them to do something for the good of Merrion Street but rather is part of a pathway for our community," he stressed.

Minister Bruton admitted that it will be a challenge and it that will require microgeneration, aerobic digesters and other changes which he said people can buy into.

"When people motivate themselves to become engaged, there needs to be a pathway to allow them get stuck in.

"We need to design those measures even though we cannot fund them all.  I cannot go to the Minister for Finance with a bill for all of this.

"Senators have said they want action now, and I agree there should be action now, but it is not a matter of finding a large bill in order that the Government can fund all the changes we need people to make. It cannot work that way.

"We must use nudges, carrots and sticks, engagement, clusters and all the other methods," he said.

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