Agri, forestry and land use to contribute 40% to carbon reductions

Land use, agriculture and forestry together will contribute approximately 40% of the reductions in emissions being planned between now and 2030, according to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton.

The minister was commenting following the publication of the Government’s Climate Action Plan yesterday, also hinting that carbon tax increases are on the way – possibly in Budget 2020.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland this morning, Tuesday, June 18, the minister confirmed that Ireland has committed to an increase in the carbon tax to eventually hit €80/t.

“Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, has a consultation out at the moment, not only on carbon tax and the move that we’ve committed to – to go to €80/t, but also about how the proceeds of that revenue should be used.”

‘Not accidental’

When asked if measures including the carbon tax increase should be implemented in 2020, the minister said:

“That’s ultimately a matter for Government to decide. The Government has clearly signalled that carbon pricing is going to be part of the instruments – but it’ll have to be a collective decision of cabinet. As you know, it’s not open to ministers.

“I will certainly be advocating for it; and I think if you listen to what other ministers are saying this is very much on the agenda. Paschal Donohoe, it’s not accidental that he is having a consultation that will close at the end of this month on this particular issue.

From a strict cabinet responsibility point of view, I cannot announce a budget measure – that’s a matter for the minister for finance on budget day.

When asked as to how agricultural emissions are going to be tackled under the plan, the minister said:

“There is a very detailed strategy set out by Teagasc as to how better management of manures, fertilisers, better choice of herd, better methods of managing your herd, can substantially reduce the carbon impact of existing activities.

‘Substantial’ increase in forestry

“In addition to that there’s a plan to increase substantially the level of planting of forestry,” Minister Bruton said.

“And, although that doesn’t give us an immediate impact, as you probably know, the credit you get from forestry over a number of years is a big part of our abatement.

So if you look overall – agriculture and land use and forestry – will be contributing about 40% of the reductions that we plan over the period to 2030. So land use is a big factor in getting this right.

When quizzed as to whether such targets can be achieved while increasing the size of the national herd, the minister was adamant.

“It can; there’s no doubt that we can reduce the impact by being more selective in the way we manage our farms.

“And it does mean that every farmer will have to make changes; under the CAP as you know those will have to be verifiable.

“The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has provided that 40% of the money will go in supporting changes that will improve carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions rather or the environment. So there will be significant incentives to make the change.”

‘Market is changing’

The minister added that, even taking incentives out of the equation, the market for agriculture is changing.

“If you want to sell food internationally – and we sell 90% of our food internationally – consumers and the industry is demanding to know what is the carbon footprint of your activity – ‘show me the quality of the management of your farms’.

“So this is coming anyhow. Farmers are future-proofing their own family farm income by making these changes,” Minister Bruton concluded.