‘A Just Transition can and should be at the centre of all climate policy’

The need for a Just Transition and creativity to be at the heart of climate action on agriculture and fishing has been highlighted by Cork south-west TD, Holly Cairns, Social Democrat spokesperson on agriculture, food and the marine.

Speaking in the Dáil on the Government’s Annual Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development, Cairns stressed that there needs to be more ambitious climate action to reach our emissions targets.

Ireland’s 2020 target is to achieve a 20% reduction of emissions on 2005 levels; however, projections indicate it will be in the range of 5-6%.

Cairns explained: “Not only has the state’s response to the climate crisis been wholly inadequate, the manner in which it has been carried out has created fear.

It has, literally, made farming and fishing communities fearful of climate action. I often end up asking the question: Should farmers be more worried about climate action or climate change?

Continuing, she said: “Farmers and fishing communities need to be treated with respect, not fed platitudes. Changes in the sector are inevitable. A Just Transition can and should be at the centre of all climate policy, and farmers need that reassurance.

“The Annual Transition Statement and its catalogue of our current policy inadequacies has to be a wake up call. Action is required immediately; real changes that will help save and enhance Irish agriculture.”

‘Wasting time we do not have’

Continuing, Cairns said that the past five years, since the signing of the Paris Agreement, have been “squandered on shallow gestures and a focus on efficiencies over achievements”.

Even worse than wasting time we do not have, is wasting time that our grandchildren and their children will not have. We need action not only because of the inevitable fines, but because of the moral obligation to the next generation of farmers and fishing communities.

“The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine needs to take a more proactive approach into understanding farmers and fishing communities to develop an approach that balances their concerns with our need to greatly reduce emissions.

“I raised the issue of the Covid-19 fishing tie-up scheme which has been criticised by fishing organisations. Minister Creed assured me he met with representatives but then produced an unpopular and unsuitable scheme to assist fishermen and women.”

Concluding, Cairns stated: “We need genuine partnerships between Government, representative organisations and communities to reach realistic, yet ambitious targets.”