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There is no time left to play politics with farm emissions

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Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, near his home in Burt, Co. Donegal. Photo by Joe Dunne 22/07/22

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, near his home in Burt, Co. Donegal. Photo by Joe Dunne 22/07/22

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, near his home in Burt, Co. Donegal. Photo by Joe Dunne 22/07/22

Politics and nature have proven to be unhappy bedfellows.

Neither global warming, nor the future of our children and planet, quite cut it compared to the safety of a Dáil seat or party poll prospects. The standoff over the scale of agricultural carbon emissions cuts is the latest in a shameful show of foot-dragging in dealing with one of the fundamental issues of our time.

A deepening “them and us” division has developed with the agricultural sector when it comes to meeting climate responsibilities.

But in the battle to save the planet there is only “us”. For any group or sector to escape its obligations and moral duties through special pleading is no longer acceptable. To further introduce the issue of “food security” to further the cause is also disingenuous. The cuts are severe because they have to be.

Politicians clearly are apprehensive about alienating farmers by standing over the exacting limits. The easy thing to do would be to stay in the slipstream of popularity and go with the traffic. But unless we find an off-ramp, that particular route can only end in disaster.

The group of Fine Gael TDs claiming Ireland’s “current wave of finger-pointing” risks tarnishing the nation’s reputation as one of the “world’s most sustainable producers of top-quality food”, speaks to the self-serving nature of some of the debate.

Nobody is “pointing fingers” at farmers, or seeking to scapegoat the sector.

We have a duty to engage with the realities and alter our processes in the face of a dangerously overheating earth.

We have to do things differently. The luxury of choice was lost a decade ago when we refused to recognise the urgency.

We can still deliver world-beating produce, but the emphasis must be on sustainability.

The Greens are finding their feet held to the flames, merely for doing what they said would from the outset.

They long made it plain they would push for big cuts. The matter could threaten the harmony of the coalition.

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Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, too, is feeling the heat from farmers, and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil backbenchers, all seeking a lower limit.

The target is to cut carbon emissions by 50pc by 2030. And carving such a commitment into law is part of the Green’s raison d’etre for taking power.

Sinn Féin has yet to commit to what level of emissions cuts it prefers. But the clock is surely ticking.

The Irish Farmers’ Association has said its contributions in the race to reduce emissions must be recognised.

The nation rightly has an abiding respect for farmers. But if ever there’s a case of us all being in this together, this is it.

About 60 years ago, Marshall McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

This being the case, no one other than ourselves can alter the course, and the time to do so was yesterday.


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