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Multi-million euro package planned to reach 30pc farm carbon emissions reduction

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue under pressure to achieve minimum reduction target

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Climate Minister Eamon Ryan aims for a 30pc carbon emissions reduction target for agriculture

Climate Minister Eamon Ryan aims for a 30pc carbon emissions reduction target for agriculture

Climate Minister Eamon Ryan aims for a 30pc carbon emissions reduction target for agriculture

A multi-million euro package for farmers to plant trees, install solar panels to generate and sell electricity, and convert farm waste into gas is being planned to meet the higher end of legally binding emission reduction targets for the agriculture sector.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan hopes enhanced State supports for farmers, to be finalised in the coming weeks, will convince Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to sign up to reducing carbon emissions from the sector by close to 30pc by the end of this decade.

Mr Ryan said farmers will be “paid a premium” for their food produce and for more environmentally friendly farming practices. “We will not see the Irish family farm survive unless we’re willing to pay for it,” he said.

But Mr McConalogue is under pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party, including his predecessor Barry Cowen, rural backbenchers in Fine Gael, and the farming lobby to agree to reducing emissions by only the minimum target of 22pc by 2030.

Mr Ryan’s Green Party colleague, Junior Biodiversity Minister Pippa Hackett, will today announce increased subsidies for organic farmers in a bid to discourage the use of chemical fertiliser, which is responsible for one sixth of agriculture emissions and has soared in price in the fall-out from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The upcoming Climate Action Plan will also increase the targets for anaerobic digestion – the practice of converting slurry and waste food into gas. Mr Ryan and his officials believe this will generate hundreds of millions of euro in additional income streams.

Farmers will also be paid to plant small-scale forestry along rivers and to grow trees on land that can continue to be farmed in a bid to capture more carbon. There will also be additional support for farmers to install solar panels on farms and farm buildings and to sell excess electricity back to the national grid.

Speaking at the Energy in Agriculture event in Tipperary yesterday, Mr Ryan said: “I am absolutely convinced that our sheep and cattle farmers have a critical role in the climate fight which they also want to be part of and getting paid a premium for the produce that they create in that way and for the storage of the carbon.”

It comes ahead of a meeting between the Green Party leader and Mr McConalogue today where they will bid to reach agreement on the emissions ceiling for agriculture.

In a sign of the potential difficulties in striking a deal imminently, Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night refused to say if he would support imposing a 30pc target on agriculture emissions.

"It's not just about setting targets, we've really got to start focusing on delivery, and delivery has been a challenge in the last years, and it will continue to be a challenge," he said.

One Government source familiar with the ongoing talks between the two departments suggested a compromise may involve an emissions ceiling set halfway between 22pc and 30pc, arguing that it was less about the percentage and more about what could be done.

“Logic would dictate that's where it's going to land, in the middle; if it's equally bad for both sides, it's a good deal,” they said.

Meanwhile, Mr Cowen has told the Taoiseach and Mr McConalogue to “hold firm” and insist on the 22pc emissions target for the sector. “While we encounter record temperatures and the worsening impacts of climate change, Irish farming shouldn’t be the scapegoat – many other sectors and continents hold a bigger responsibility,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Department of Agriculture’s chief inspector Bill Callanan has criticised an “unhelpful narrative” that the 22pc emissions target would be “business as usual” when this is not the case.

He said achieving even the lower emissions ceiling would require “significant transformational change … on a scale that has not been seen before for Irish agriculture”.

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