An independent candidate for the Ireland South constituency in the European Elections has said that a change to emissions estimates for grassland has been “swept under the carpet”.

Former general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Eddie Punch has said that he is “exasperated” that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent decision to slash emissions estimates for grasslands by 65% has received so little coverage. 

“Why is this hugely significant development being swept under the carpet?” Punch said.

“It turns out that farmers were right to be angry about the Nature Restoration Law proposals which painted farmers on restored peatlands as the villains of climate change.

“The debate in Ireland was coloured by a miles wrong ideological belief based on a lack of research,” he added.

Emissions estimates

Punch explained that farmers were told that the grassland inventory sub-category was contributing a net 7.09 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), whereas the more accurate figure based on studies by Teagasc and the International Peatland Society is 2.48Mt CO2e.

European election candidate, Eddie Punch

“The EPA has now accepted this but it’s a bit late considering the damage that has been done in terms of public debate and the Nature Restoration Law process in the EU,” Punch continued.

Describing this decision as a major development, Eddie Punch added: “This should be making the headlines but for some reason it isn’t.

“It is equally surprising that the new Taoiseach did not mention it when addressing farmers at the EPP meeting in Carlow, nor was it highlighted by any of his party’s European Election candidates.

“You can’t claim to represent the interests of the farm and food sector if you ignore major developments like this when the government parties were all too ready to allow so much climate shaming of farmers over the past few years.”

Punch has also criticised Irish MEPs for voting for the Nature Restoration Law when he said that one of the biggest justifications for it in Ireland was the “massively incorrect assumption” about peatland emissions.

“I tried to explain to all political representatives that it was going to prove inaccurate because the only research backing the estimates was on pristinely drained peatlands on continental Europe where hot dry weather for prolonged periods couldn’t possibly be compared with wet Irish conditions,” Punch said.

“However, the fact is that almost all political representatives are too afraid of upsetting the Greens or concerned about what environmental keyboard warriors on social media might think.

“It is lamentable that they were prepared to throw farmers on 335,000ha under the bus even though the estimates were based on nothing more than an ill-informed guess that international estimates might also apply here,” Punch concluded.