The agriculture sector will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 22% as part of the Government’s plans to tackle climate change, the Environment Minister has said.
Eamon Ryan said it was “not easy” for farmers but that he was close to finalising targets for reducing emissions with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue.
The Climate Change Advisory Council has recommended carbon cuts of 22% to 30% from the agricultural industry.
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Ryan said it was “challenging” for the sector.
“We’re hoping to conclude that in the coming days,” he said. “It’s not easy, it’s challenging for agriculture… There’s real opportunity to open up a whole range of public versus private capital, which will go into paying for young farmers to manage and tender land.
“That’s what myself and Charlie (McConalogue) have been discussing. Working out – how feasible is that, how could we do it, how can we go further?
“We will have to go further than 22%. I’m not going to go into discussion on figures here today.”
He added: “We agreed on this – that we really need momentum. We need to make sure that every farmer knows this is the way the world is going. I’m going to be part of this, play my part and also know that they are going to get a good income from it.”
Mr Ryan and Mr McConalogue met on Wednesday to discuss the sector’s role in cutting emissions.
The Government is expected to sign off next week on legally binding targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that would require a cut to the national herd among other measures.
Ireland is committed to halving carbon emissions by 2030 and to net zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Ryan’s comments come as the latest report from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showed Ireland’s emissions rose by almost 5% last year compared to 2020 and are now 1.1% above 2019 pre-Covid restriction levels.
The EPA report found that two-fifths of emissions are coming from agriculture.
Mr Ryan blamed the increased use of Moneypoint coal-fired power station in Co Clare for the rise in emissions last year.
“By not making as much (progress) last year we will have to do more in the coming years,” he said.
“The main reasons those figures went up was because Moneypoint was running much longer than previously.
“The price of gas being so high Moneypoint was in the merit order all of the time. Increasing transport and farming, fertiliser use – they are the key reasons.”
Mr Ryan said householder-related emissions went down by almost 5%, which “showed we can do it”.
“No one disagrees that we have to do this,” he added.” Just how quickly can we do it? And yes, we’re going to have to go faster. Yes, we’re going to have to do more but it’ll only work if it’s good for the country that actually leads to a better system.”
He added: “No sector is left out but no sector is going to get all the blame either. It’s not going to work if we’re pointing the finger.”