Fine Gael TDs and Senators group claim farmers and rural Ireland are ‘scapegoats’

A group of Fine Gael TDs and senators, including four former government ministers, have claimed farmers and rural Ireland are being ‘scapegoated’ over climate change.

Former ministers in the last government, John Paul Phelan, David Stanton, Charlie Flanagan and Paul Kehoe, along with Senators John Cummins and Garret Ahearn, have criticized the “false narrative” about agriculture and its impact on Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Their joint statement comes as talks between Farm Secretary Charlie McConalogue and Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan on setting a precise target for reducing farm emissions by the end of the decade are due to continue until next week.

As Mr Ryan pushes for a 30 percent reduction by 2030, Mr McConalogue is under pressure from the farm lobby and backbenchers at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to resist any emissions cuts beyond 22 percent.

“Other sectors of our economy produce higher emissions, but the prevailing view of many commentators in the media, environmental NGOs and others is that culling animals is the only way to save the planet,” the Fine Gael group said.

“It is right to set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, but the key to achieving those targets is both that they are achievable and that industry stakeholders can participate in the process by knowing that they are underlined by fairness.

“The false narrative that is so prevalent in the Irish debate on climate change puts all the blame on both farmers and rural residents, that’s just not correct.”

The group claimed that research and innovation in the sector has a “huge impact” on emissions, citing changes in cattle diets, investments in solar panels, lower-emission manure spreading systems and the pasture-based grazing system, which they say is “one of the most sustainable of the World”.

“We are not climate deniers. But what we desperately need is fair play for rural Ireland. Burden sharing is important. Farming families and all rural dwellers cannot and should not be scapegoated,” the group said.

The six-strong group of rural backbenchers also called for changes to planning regulations to allow more solar panels to be installed on farm buildings and commercial and residential buildings on farms, and to pay farmers to generate electricity from solar energy.

They said there has been no significant government support to introduce anaerobic digestion and commercial methane production from agriculture, adding that even those farming families who have invested in solar panels are “once again being branded villains.” Fine Gael TDs and Senators group claim farmers and rural Ireland are ‘scapegoats’

Fry Electronics Team

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