A multi-million euro package for farmers to plant trees, install solar panels to generate and sell electricity and turn agricultural waste into gas is planned to meet the upper end of the legally binding emissions reduction targets for the agricultural sector.
Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan is hoping that increased government support for farmers, due to be completed in the coming weeks, will persuade Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue to commit to reducing the sector’s carbon emissions by almost 30 per cent by the end of this decade.
Mr Ryan said farmers were “paid a premium” for their food and for more environmentally friendly farming practices. “We will not see the Irish family business survive unless we are willing to pay for it,” he said.
But Mr McConalogue is under pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party, including his predecessor Barry Cowen, rural backbencher in Fine Gael and the farming lobby, to agree to cut emissions by just the minimum 22 per cent target by 2030.
Ryan’s Green Party colleague, Junior Minister for Biodiversity Pippa Hackett, will today announce increased subsidies for organic farmers to curb chemical fertilizer use, which accounts for a sixth of farm emissions and has skyrocketed in fallout from Russia’s invasion to Ukraine.
The forthcoming climate change plan will also raise targets for anaerobic digestion – the practice of turning manure and waste materials into gas. Mr. Ryan and his officials believe this will generate hundreds of millions of euros in additional income streams.
Farmers are also paid to grow small-scale forestry along rivers and plant trees on land that can continue to be farmed to sequester more carbon. There will also be additional support for farmers to install solar panels on farms and farm buildings and sell excess electricity back to the national grid.
Speaking at yesterday’s Energy in Agriculture event in Tipperary, Mr Ryan said: “I absolutely believe that our sheep and beef farmers have a vital role to play in the fight against the climate, which they also participate in and receive a bounty for the produce want to generate them that way, and for storing the carbon.”
It comes ahead of a meeting today between the leader of the Green Party and Mr McConalogue, where they will seek to reach an agreement on the agricultural emissions cap.
In a sign of potential difficulties in reaching an agreement shortly, Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night declined to say whether he would support the introduction of a 30 percent target on agricultural emissions.
“It’s not just about setting goals, we really need to focus on execution, and execution has been a challenge for the past few years and will continue to be a challenge,” he said.
A government source familiar with ongoing talks between the two ministries suggested a compromise could include an emissions cap that’s halfway between 22 percent and 30 percent, arguing that it’s less about the percentage and more about it go what can be done.
“Logic would dictate that it will end up there, in the middle; If it’s equally bad for both sides, it’s a good deal,” they said.
Meanwhile, Mr Cowen has told the Taoiseach and Mr McConalogue to “hold on” and insist on the 22 per cent emissions target for the sector. “As we face record temperatures and the worsening effects of climate change, Irish agriculture should not be the scapegoat – many other sectors and continents have a greater responsibility,” he said.
Elsewhere, the Department of Agriculture’s chief inspector, Bill Callanan, has criticized an “unhelpful portrayal” that the 22 percent emissions target would be “business as usual” if it weren’t.
He said meeting even the lower emissions cap would require “significant transformative changes… on a scale never before seen for Irish agriculture”.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/multi-million-euro-package-planned-to-reach-30pc-farm-carbon-emissions-reduction-41853908.html Multi-million euro package planned to reduce the farm’s carbon emissions by 30 percent