There has been widespread anger among many farming communities this week following the Government’s decision to agree to a 25 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector as part of plans to reduce national emissions by 51 per cent by 2030.
IFA President Tim Cullinan said the announcment was a potentially devastating blow for Irish farming and the rural economy.
He said the deal between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party was about the survival of the Government rather than the survival of rural Ireland.
Mr. Cullinan accused the Government of agreeing to a target “without any pathway to get there or any budget to assist farmers to reduce emissions”.
“I want to make it clear that any attempt to undermine farmers’ livelihoods or the viability of sector, in order to achieve these targets, will be opposed vigorously by the IFA,” Mr Cullinan said.
“The Government will have to come forward with real proposals and proper funding to support climate measures including on-farm renewable energy – and ensure that farmers get full credit for this,” he said.
“We are still strongly of the view that the Government has not complied with the requirements in the Climate Act in relation to carbon leakage and the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane. These will have to be taken on board by the Government”.
A number of other farming bodies have echoed criticism of the announcement with ICMSA President Pat McCormack accusing the Government of “making a difficult situation impossible”.
“If the historic process and transition is to win the confidence that will be necessary for it to succeed, then it simply must be realistic. If it is not realistic – and 25 per cent is not realistic – then the whole process loses all momentum, trust and confidence,” he said.
The President of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association, Vincent Roddy, pointed to the proposed increase of Brazil’s national herd and said the emissions target was “an Irish solution to a global problem”. He added that the 25 per cent target would impact heavily on rural areas and urged the Government to readdress the situation.
ICSA President Dermot Kelleher called for a blanket ban on meat imports from outside the EU and said the Government must now “step up to the plate” to provide financial supports for farmers.
“It is deeply regrettable that the Government has put in place hugely challenging targets without any clear plan for farmers on how 25 per cent can be achieved,” he said.
“When farmers have pointed this out, they have been subjected to relentless attacks by a vociferous lobby who have refused to listen to real concerns about how this can be practically achieved without destroying farm viability”.
Meanwhile, local TD Denis Naughten called on the Government to reassure farmers that if other sectors failed to achieve their targets then farmers would not be faced with an event bigger target by 2030.
Deputy Naughten called for a “clear roadmap” to be set out on how to practically achieve a 51 per cent national emissions reduction target by 2030.
“The fact that 37 per cent of our population live in isolated rural areas and are reliant to such a huge extent on solid and oil-fired central heating are examples of these unique challenges,” he said, pointing to the National Broadband Plan as a possible solution to the pollution caused by commuters.
“Despite the investment in public transport, up to half of all people commute to work in Dublin by car. BusConnects hopes to make public transport more attractive, but we also need disincentives to bring the car into the city,” he said.
The Independent TD added that the €500 million Climate Action Fund must be used to stimulate innovative solutions.
“Now that the targets have been set by Government, we need to double our efforts to achieve them,” he concluded.