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Greens dig heels in on emissions targets

The Green Party is digging in on its radical new climate change laws, despite looking increasingly isolated on the issue after backbench Fianna Fail TDs joined the chorus of opposition against the proposed bill.

This follows the IFA's statement that the Green's proposals would place totally unrealistic restrictions on farmers and destroy the potential of the agri-food sector.

The bill, which is up for discussion in the Seanad this week, seeks a 30pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

This is 50pc higher than the level Ireland has already committed to under the EU's emission reduction plan.

From 2020 to 2050, the Green Party proposals envisage a further 50pc reduction, resulting in an astonishing 80pc reduction in Ireland's total emissions. However, a spokesman from the Department of the Environment said that the increased targets would be offset by the 70pc increase in carbon sinks predicted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The bill takes these changes into account, which will mean that, in effect, Ireland will not be required to lower its emissions any more than the 20pc reduction we are already committed to," the spokesman said.

He added that the cost of meeting any of the targets in the bill would be the same if nothing was done.

"If we don't reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, with the way oil prices are going, we're going to see an increase in costs anyway," he said.

When quizzed as to why Ireland should try to reduce its emissions by more than any other country, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley said that it was necessary to attract hi-tech multi-nationals, such as Google and Facebook, here.

However, Fine Gael's agriculture spokesman, Andrew Doyle, said that there was no point in encouraging multi-nationals if it was going to destroy Ireland's indigenous industry at the same time.

"I don't buy this view, especially given that many of these companies are already based here," said Mr Doyle.

"It doesn't matter whether we set ourselves up as the Mother Theresas of climate change and reduce our emissions to zero if the rest of the world does nothing.

"We're in danger of giving away our negotiating position completely by committing ourselves to something like this before anybody else.

"This is obviously just a trophy bill that could make a mockery of us. We'd be far better off with a public obligation for facilities such as hospitals and schools to switch to indigenous sources of bio-energy to advance our environmental objectives."

The IFA is now demanding that the proposed legislation is abandoned.

"The Green's refusal to accept the damaging implications of their policy for Ireland is dishonest," said IFA president John Bryan.

"Food production in this country, which is carried out on a sustainable basis, would be replaced by countries from South America, which have a very poor record on the environment."

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith appeared to echo these sentiments in a speech at last week's Oxford Farming Conference in Britain.

"A modern, productive EU agriculture and food sector ensures the sustainable use of natural resources and supports climate change mitigation," Minister Smith said.

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