Comments made by the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan in relation to the Climate Action Plan and a smaller national herd have been met with sharp criticism from rural independent TDs in the Dáil today (Wednesday, January 18).

Discussing the Climate Action Plan 2023 which was published by government late last month, Minister Ryan said Ireland will be moving towards a less intensive system with a smaller national herd.

The plan outlines land use diversification options for farmers, including anaerobic digestion (AD) and forestry to incentivise a voluntary reduction of livestock numbers to meet the sector’s 25% emissions reduction target.

Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins described the minister’s comments as “another betrayal by government”, and claimed that the “real plan is to put farmers out of business”.

Commenting on the role the agriculture sector has to play in order to achieve a 51% emissions reduction across the Irish economy by 2030, Minister Ryan said:

“Reducing our use of fertilisers is essential to meet our climate targets but it will also save farmers money.

“We will be moving towards a less intensive system but I believe we can get paid a higher price for that.

“There will be a smaller national herd but the critical thing for farmers is their family’s income and how we protect the family farm.”

At the launch of the Climate Action Plan 2023 Minister Ryan said there is a real need for incentivisation schemes to encourage farmers to switch, however he does not consider this a “cull”.

Climate Action Plan

Criticising the scientific evidence informing the plan, independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan claimed that the Climate Action Plan 2023 is based on “exaggerated climate science”.

According to Deputy Nolan, the Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF), which shares the government’s vision of a sustainable future, noted that the inspired level of mitigation, if ever achieved, could seriously damage the Irish economy.

The rural independent TDs also strongly criticised Coillte’s forestry deal with London-headquartered investment fund Gresham House to support 12,000ha of new and existing forestry in Ireland.


Deputy Nolan has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and the Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett to immediately address concerns around the deal.

The Social, Economic and Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA) has written to both ministers highlighting concerns around delays to the new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme 2023-2027 and ongoing ash dieback challenges.

However, no response has been received to date, and no invitation to discuss the matters has been extended to representatives of the private forestry sector, Deputy Nolan said.

“It is critical to the future of the sector that all stakeholders are involved at every step of the process, particularly those who represent the vast majority of private forestry concerns.

“That has not happened despite explicit requests for consultation and dialogue on the massive challenges that have once again confronted the sector. It is inexplicable to have the main representative bodies ignored in this way,” she said.

There are now growing concerns around indefinite delays to works involving the removal of decaying and rotting trees, Deputy Nolan added.

“The ministers must make some effort to facilitate this meeting request as soon as possible,” she concluded.