Farmers face targets not quotas to reduce emissions as Ireland faces €5.5bn in fines - Bruton

Richard Bruton address the IFA AGM
Richard Bruton address the IFA AGM
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers will face targets not quotas to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, according to Richard Bruton.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment is due to publish his action plan around climate change by the end of March and he assured farmers at the IFA AGM that targets for the agriculture sector will be a route to reduce carbon emissions from agriculture that are in line with maintaining a prosperous farming sector.

His March plan will set out actions, target dates and milestones for the three main sectors emitting carbon - agriculture, industry and transport to reduce carbon emissions by 30pc between 2021 and 2030.

"I'm trying to solve all our problems by de carbonising our sectors and there will be sectoral targets and I hope they are in line with growing output from agriculture.

"There has to be a carbon target in agriculture, industry and transport. It's only if you have a target you can underpin it with policies."

Routes that impose the least burden and give the most opportunity, he said, would be key to his plan, but said there were no specific targets or determined yet.

"I don't have preconceived ideas of what is the best policy instrument, but we have to have those instruments in place. But we have to link policy instruments to targets in each sector."

He said that his policies may be less aggressive in agriculture, as the opportunities for change are more limited than in other areas.

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Climate change, he said, may not have as an immediate impact as Brexit, but he warned if Ireland misses its 2030 targets it is facing enormous consequences in the form of €5.5bn in penalties. 

Agriculture, industry and transport account for 80pc of Ireland's emission trading systems and their current trajectory, he said, is to increase in tonnage by 5.2m t or around 25m t during the timeframe we are meant to reduce our emissions by 55m t.

"That's the scale of the challenge we face."

Such a change, he said, would involve deep structural changes in how we live, travel, heat our homes and run our farms.

"This is a serious challenge and it's important we understand its scale and plan for it."

The future of farming, he said, will be about how it manages carbon and GHG activity.

"It will be very much about manning GHG in the farm enterprise, in the mix of farming practices and product range the farmer has and it will shape the CAP."

He said whether or not permanent grassland could be determined a carbon sink will be up to the EU, or how methane is measured relative to carbon is another issue, but one that the EU can only decide.

The European Commission, he said, in the future will want to see verifiable carbon reduction before signing off on CAP plans at national level.

"We must minimise the burden and maximise the opportunities."

These opportunities, he said, will include forestry, anaerobic digestion and biomass.

He said that while he is the son of a former IFA beef committee chair, that sector has a particular problem, as it's where GHG levels are and the family farm income is low, "so that balance is difficult for that sector".

The creation of bio materials from agriculture seems to be a huge opportunity and we need to see how we can expand that and renewable sources is a huge opportunity, he said.

Online Editors


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