Climate bill: Legally-binding targets for agri will ‘probably come later’ than other sectors

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020 was published today (Wednesday, October 7) and the government has said legally-binding targets for emissions from agriculture will “probably come later”.

Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan said that the bill, which passed through the cabinet yesterday, will be enacted by mid-December.

The minister said “it will not be an easy process” to carbon-neutrality and that it requires a lot of sectors “to change their ways”.

Each sector will be assigned sectoral targets, including agriculture, and it has been recognised by the government that it is not possible to have a target of net-zero emissions in the agriculture sector.

Speaking this evening, the minister said that over a 15-year period there will be binding emission targets for the agriculture sector, in five-year stages, reviewed continuously and that these targets “will probably come later”.

“Agriculture takes longer to change – forestry, you don’t grow overnight, rewetting bogs will take time, changing the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] will take two years before we even see that come into place,” he said.

Agriculture will be different though, it won’t be possible to get the zero emissions that we will be able to get in energy. There will always be a certain level of biogenic methane.

“But it [agriculture] will not stay as is – it will have to make a contribution – a very significant contribution – but I’ve been saying that gives us an opportunity to actually help Irish agriculture.

“By changing the way we do things, by tackling the biodiversity crisis as well as the climate crisis, you get a better form of farming and better payments for farmers.

“We will have less animals, the herd will be smaller, but if we get a better price, that’s what the farmers will be interested in, that they’ve an income and a better future.

“Yes, it will have to reduce emissions, it will play its part but it will be different to other sectors because there are limits to what you can do.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin added that there is an awareness of the need for sustainability by those in the sector.

“I think we should look at certain sectors of agriculture who have been very innovative – in terms of practices.

There is a strong research basis in Irish agriculture, maybe elements of that need to be intensified around sustainability.

“The income issue is a key issue – if you look at beef, it’s been very difficult for farmers to get an adequate margin and I think we need to look at the income streams of farmers and see how we can bolster those – but bolster them around the sustainability and biodiversity agenda.”