Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Welcome for Government move to axe 2020 targets

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Green Party proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by up to 30pc by 2020 have been scrapped in a dramatic U-turn by the Government.

But diesel prices look set to increase as the Minister for Finance hinted at further increases in carbon taxes during his budgetary outlook last week.

The tax has added almost 5c/l to diesel since it was introduced last year.

However, farm organisations were applauding the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, after he announced last week that he would be reviewing the climate change targets and policy drafted by the Greens just before they resigned from Government in January.

Mr Hogan highlighted the need for special concessions for the farming sector and a change in the way emissions from the sector, which account for 40pc of the total, are calculated.

The minister stressed that Ireland remains on course to meet its legally binding commitments in the Kyoto Protocol up until 2012. However, EPA projections from this latest review show that Ireland cannot meet its 2020 mitigation target on the basis of existing policies and measures.

One of the main reasons for this is the 50pc increase in output from the agri-sector targeted in the Food Harvest 2020 report.

However, Mr Hogan has abandoned previous Green Party policy to set separate emissions targets for each sector.

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"I do not intend to introduce targets for each sector. Instead, I believe in achieving consensus with the relevant departments," he said. "I have already had constructive bilateral meetings with [Agriculture Minister] Mr Coveney, who has committed to identifying proposals for consideration."

Mr Hogan's approach to this issue now hinges on a three-pronged strategy that includes further studies, public consultation and the promotion of emission reduction initiatives within each Department.

IFA president John Bryan said the commitment to adjust the way in which emissions are calculated is an important acknowledgement of the advantages of Ireland's grass-based system.

"IFA has consistently argued that our permanent pasture and carbon sink from forestry had to be taken into account when devising our climate change policy," he said. "The Government's move will assist the sector in meeting the targets set out in Food Harvest 2020. The need to feed the world's population must take priority."


ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch said that it made no sense to cap Irish agriculture output and simply concede market share to other regions where climate change is further down the agenda.

However, environmental groups slammed the policy U-turn.

Tara Connelly, convenor of the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership, said: "We cannot wait another year to implement policies that reduce Ireland's carbon emissions. We need a Climate Change Bill to make sure this Government and future governments don't pass the buck."

Molly Walsh, of Friends of the Earth, said that Ireland was never going to be the bread basket of the world.

"We must recognise the profound impacts that climate change will have on our food security. Inaction on climate change is a threat to food security, not action," she said.

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