The impasse on the climate targets must not rest on its own

“There is no Planet B” is a slogan often used by young climate change activists, including Greta Thunberg. The pun comes to mind as coalition leaders ponder how to break the deadlock on emissions reduction targets. Plan A failed and there is no guarantee Plan B will get better.

Through legislation passed in the Dáil and Seanad and supported by the government and most opposition figures, the country has pledged to cut total greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

The plan was supposed to put the country on a sustainable path by reducing emissions, creating a cleaner, greener economy and society, and protecting us from the devastating effects of climate change. Apparently, the actions were a chance to create jobs and boost businesses “in areas like offshore wind, cutting-edge agriculture and retrofitting to make our homes warmer and safer.”

The climate protection plan was based on the Climate Protection Act 2021 and was a commitment in the government program. The rest should just be the fine detail to be worked out later. Passing the legislation was the easy part; policy implementation is made drastically more difficult.

The sectoral targets have been set as a means of achieving the overall target. As always, the rhetoric does not correspond to reality. Farming has become a sticking point as the Greens have been pitted against Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in what appears to be an urban and rural difference in emphasis.

Cuts between 22 and 30 percent are planned for agriculture. Backbenchers in the larger parties have argued that the lower end of the scale will be challenging enough for the sector and that farmers are ready to play their part. The Greens want agriculture to be cut as much as possible, arguing that agriculture is the biggest emitter. Cuts of this magnitude will result in a reduction in the number of cattle, particularly in the dairy sector. The conversations sink, at least metaphorically, into the mud. The Greens are now increasing the pressure by saying a figure on the low end would be unacceptable and the party would have to reconsider its future in government unless the ultimate target is on the high side.

Talks between Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Climate Minister Eamon Ryan failed to resolve the issue last night. In the absence of an agreement, the negotiations will be parked until autumn.

This is a failure of politics. Much attention was drawn to Sinn Féin’s non-committal stance on the extent of the cuts farmers should make. But it’s hard for the government to move to the high moral ground if it can’t deliver.

Being in power means making compromises and finding your way through difficult terrain. One way or another, farmers need certainty about what will be asked of them in the coming years. It does no one any good to leave this problem. It’s time to clear the political hot air. The impasse on the climate targets must not rest on its own

Fry Electronics Team

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