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Agriculture emissions target to be set within weeks

Change in methane calculations will not be considered when setting reduction figure

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A cut in suckler numbers was at the back of everyone's mind at the EPA meeting. Photo: Gabriel Cassan

A cut in suckler numbers was at the back of everyone's mind at the EPA meeting. Photo: Gabriel Cassan

A cut in suckler numbers was at the back of everyone's mind at the EPA meeting. Photo: Gabriel Cassan

The emissions reduction target for agriculture are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks — and any change in how methane from agriculture is calculated is unlikely to be considered.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue is to meet with Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan this week to discuss how much of a cut agriculture will face.

The sector’s reduction target has been set at between 22pc and 30pc of its 2018 levels, but an exact figure has yet to be decided.

Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Laura Burke, said recently that agriculture must clarify how it will achieve reductions.

“We are particularly concerned when we look at the agriculture sector... because there’s an up to 30pc reduction in methane required. And the question is how do we go about that,” she said.

The challenge facing the country’s livestock sector in meeting the Government’s climate action targets was outlined by the EPA at the first meeting of the Food Vision Beef and Sheep Group, which took place last week.

The group, established by Minister McConalogue, is looking for ways to reduce emissions associated with the beef sector and follows the establishment of a similar dairy group earlier this year.

 

Measures

The Farming Independent understands farm organisations were told at the meeting that full implementation of emission reduction measures already outlined “may just” get the agriculture sector to the minimum emissions cut demanded by
Government.

However, the group was warned action could not be delayed and there must be progress made in the next two to three years, according to a source at the meeting.

Some farm organisations at the meeting highlighted that suckler cow numbers have already reduced significantly since 2018. “Herd cuts were in the back of everyone’s minds at the meeting,” said the source. “There was a mood among some that the dairy expansion sector has gone too far.

“Beef farmers can’t be held accountable for expansion in the dairy sector if it comes to herd cuts.”

Pressure is mounting on the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee to hold an urgent meeting regarding the Government’s handling of methane emissions from livestock before the Dáil’s summer break.

Professor Myles Allen of Oxford University has agreed to address the committee amid ongoing scientific and legal debate over the impact of bovine-sourced methane on global warming.

However, it’s understood any such meeting won’t now happen until the autumn.

Committee Chairman Jackie Cahill said “the only reason” the methane meeting has not yet occurred is because of the National Food Ombudsman Bill.

“The Agriculture Minister wants that to go through pre-legislative scrutiny,” said Mr Cahill. “It’s a very detailed, complicated bill and it’s going to take four or five meetings to make progress. That will take up all our time between now and the recess. The methane meeting will get preference when we come back in autumn. We’ve stakeholders saying the calculations are not being done correctly as regards ruminating animals.

“We want to give them a platform to bring forward their case; if they make a legitimate case, obviously it will have a very significant impact on the ceilings already applied.”

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A Department of the Environment spokesperson insisted the carbon budgets fall in line with current reporting practices.

“Our carbon budgets are consistent with the EU and with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting practices,” they said.


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