Coalition split over eco-measures against farmers ahead of no-confidence vote

The coalition is at odds in the fight against CO2 emissions from farmers.

ianna Fáil and Fine Gael are trying to stave off drastic cuts in agricultural emissions that would dramatically reduce cattle numbers.

Ahead of a vote of confidence in the government tonight, it’s still unknown how two rebel Green TDs will vote.

Environmental groups say the climate protection goals are why the Greens are in the coalition and they have to “hold the line”.

But there are growing tensions over Green Secretary Eamon Ryan’s calls for agriculture to get its largest share of the cuts.

A drastic reduction in the national cattle herd remains an option to achieve this goal.

But such a move would be unsellable to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers or independent TDs on which the government now relies.

“The gap is very big. Neither can win because then the other has such a loss. I don’t see how Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will agree to something that is going to happen so disastrously and provoke such a backbench backlash,” a minister said Irish Independent.

An agreement on the contribution of each polluting sector was due to be agreed by the government this week but has now been postponed.

Agriculture is the largest contributor to national emissions, but there is uncertainty about how and when it will implement measures to reduce methane.

A 22 percent reduction in emissions is the minimum that can be proposed. Farming associations such as the IFA and ICMSA are lobbying hard for Farm Secretary Charlie McConalogue’s target to be kept so low. But the Greens are pushing for a maximum 30 percent reduction in emissions, with environmental groups exerting heavy pressure. Such a move would lead to a massive reduction in the national herd of cattle.

There are also concerns within the coalition about the credibility of the promise to cut 30 per cent, despite knowing that this is not achievable, and the need to engage farmers and the agri-food sector.

The cuts at the lower end of the scale still mean:

  • 25 percent reduction in chemical fertilizers;
  • New grass species are adopted;
  • Previous slaughter of cattle from 27 months to 24 months;
  • changes in farming practices;
  • New technologies are used;
  • 75,000 hectares of forest are planted in three years.

Farmers are also expected to be offered a large financial package.

“You must bring all the peasants with you. If we force a change on them, they will lose their support,” a source said.

But sources on both sides say stabilizing or reducing livestock numbers must enter the equation if even higher targets are to be met. The Greens assume that consumer habits will change anyway and that demand will fall as a result.

“It’s not about Greens versus farmers. That’s too easy. There are also EU regulations. We have to achieve our goals,” a source said.

Agricultural emissions, which account for a third of the country’s total emissions, are currently projected to increase by almost 2 percent by 2030, rather than actually decreasing.

Talks between the two sides are ongoing, but not much is expected to move beyond the minimum level of 22 percent given the challenging agricultural targets.

“Charlie needs to be seen to contribute to IFA. Eamon has his part to play as well,” a coalition source said.

Finally, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar are expected to join Mr Ryan for talks. The Taoiseach yesterday called climate change “the most serious and existential issue facing this country” and claimed the opposition did not have the “necessary backbone” to deal with it.

The government will tonight reject a motion of no confidence from Sinn Féin. But after losing its majority in the Dáil last week, it will need the support of independents. Former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry has indicated he will support the coalition and a number of other TDs are expected to follow suit.

But Rebel Greens TD Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello have yet to explain how they will vote. The couple lost the party stick after voting against the government in the dispute over the National Maternity Hospital.

Mr Martin says a wasted budget would be paralyzed if the government’s no-confidence motion were passed. The Taoiseach says the people do not want a general election, which would then lead to long delays in forming a new government.

“An election would mean no budget package for the foreseeable future and would lead to paralysis. I think it’s a cynical exercise,” he said.

The coalition will highlight its track record in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, economic performance, foreign investment and housing plans. Coalition split over eco-measures against farmers ahead of no-confidence vote

Fry Electronics Team

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