The carbon budgets, which form part of the new Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2021, must be “realistic and proportionate to the agriculture sector’s importance”, one farm organisation has highlighted.

Reacting to the details that came out about the new bill today (Tuesday, March 23), the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) said that the objective of transitioning Ireland’s farming and agri-food sector to a low-emissions basis was “feasible and already underway”.

However, Pat McCormack, the association’s president, cautioned that the sector’s carbon budget – the detail of which has yet to be fixed – had to be proportionate to the fact that “our farming and food sectors are the economic and social backbone of most of the state outside of the cities and larger towns”.

The bill does seem to recognise that… the ability of many areas to function economically, socially and demographically rested completely on the transition of our commercial farming sector to a lower emissions basis that maintained incomes and opportunities.

“Farmers will watch every move around the bill carefully. Particular attention will be paid to the three new appointments to be made to the Climate Change Advisory Committee, bringing its membership from 11 to 14,” McCormack said.

He added: “We’d like to assume that the [government] will actively strike a balance between those who want faster progress on lowering emissions and those, like ICMSA, who see the need to maintain the operating and commercial heart of our farming and agri-food sector.

“It would send a disastrous signal if the [government] was tempted to appoint individuals who did not acknowledge that balance of considerations and seemed unconcerned by the kind of dislocation that will certainly follow if that transition moves too fast or too recklessly,” the ICMSA president concluded.