Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said there is “so little time left” to address the climate crisis despite announcing carbon emission targets below the level he was seeking in talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
After weeks of talks with his coalition partners, Mr Ryan said the process was not about “winners and losers” as he revealed the reduced target of a 25pc for the agriculture sector despite the Green Party wanting 30pc.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said farmers are “up for” for the carbon emission reductions and said the Government will support them.
“People are obviously anxious about how we are going to move forward but as a government we are very determined across sectors to back families, back citizens, and back farm families to go on this journey,” he added.
Mr Ryan urged farmers and environmentalist to “start working together”.
The Climate Minister said the Government might “speed up” their response to impending climate disaster in the coming years.
“The scale of the challenge is so great that we do have to go the max” Mr Ryan said. “It’s such a critical time and there is so little time left but with this we will start and make a really strong start,” he added.
“We need the agriculture movement and the environmental movement to come together and we are coming together.”
Mr Ryan said the Government will provide new incomes for farming communities across the country. He said State investment in solar, biomethane gas and forestation will benefit farmers.
Agreement between the Coalition parties was struck this afternoon, with a Cabinet memo stipulating that emissions from agriculture – which is responsible for nearly 40pc of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions – will fall by 25pc by the end of the decade.
It will involve significant changes for farmers and farming practices in the coming years, with a major overhaul of the Irish agriculture and agri-food sector.
Farmers will be incentivised to take up more climate-friendly farming practices such as carbon storage, energy generation from solar panels and converting farm waste into gas.
Meanwhile, the target for commercial buildings is to be 45pc reduction in emissions and 40pc for residential buildings.
The target for industry will be 35pc under the plan.
A range of incentives to encourage farmers and businesses to move toward a more sustainable approach to their activities is also being prepared
Under the new climate plan, the Government will commit to more than doubling the State's target for solar power to 5.5GW by incentivising farmers to install solar panels on their land.
There will be massive increase in renewable energy production through anaerobic digestion, which will use slurry and grass from farms to reduce the use of fossil fuel gas by up to 15pc
There will also be a major ramping up of tree planting, wetlands restoration and carbon storage in soil.
The Government has also agreed to increase the State's offshore wind energy target from 5GW to 7GW, with the additional 2GW set aside for the supply of green hydrogen to produce electricity.
A Fine Gael source also stressed that the new schemes for farmers will be "entirely voluntary", adding that there will be "no coercion or compulsion".
They added: "The Government wants farmers to work with them."
Fine Gael sources also stressed that there will be generous financial incentives for farmers to change to more environmentally sustainable farm practices.
Discussions between the three Coalition party leaders and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue had intensified over the last 48 hours to reach agreement on an overall climate plan before the end of this month.
In the final hours of negotiations, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader, had been holding out for a reduction of 26pc or more, while Mr McConalogue had been pushing for a 24pc cut by 2030.
A compromise on a 25pc reduction is likely to face criticism from environmentalists and farming groups, with some rural Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers also likely to need convincing in order to back the proposals.
The target for the energy sector is to be set at 75pc, while the transport industry will have to reduce emissions by 50pc under plans to be agreed by cabinet.
Green Party sources said the deal will see agriculture cut its emissions by 25pc but with significant add-ons that will see farmers deliver further emissions savings in other sectors such as energy and land use.
The overall agreement commits to a major ramping up of anaerobic digestion - the conversion of farm waste into biogas, as well as a delivering and additional 2 gigawatts of offshore wind energy and another 3 gigawatts of solar power on top of existing Government commitments.
One gigawatt of energy is enough to power nearly one million homes.
Mr Ryan is expected to make an announcement on the first-of-their-kind climate targets this evening.
Minister McConalogue had been pushing to keep the target for farmers as low as possible.
Talks intensified in the last 24 hours over how to ensure the Government’s target of reducing overall carbon emissions by 51pc by 2030 can be achieved.
While the target for the agriculture industry has proven the most contentious, there has also been significant debate around the limits to be set for other sectors including transport, energy and industry.
The main concerns of those locked in the talks surrounded introducing targets which can be realistically achieved by the sectors impacted.
A range of incentives to encourage farmers and businesses to move toward a more sustainable approach to their activities is also being prepared.
Within the Department of Transport, a so-called ‘acceleration team’ has been appointed to set in motion the necessary Government policies needed to achieve a significant reduction in carbon emissions by road users.