Talks are continuing this morning (Wednesday, July 27) between government parties in an effort to break the deadlock on agricultural emissions.
It follows a meeting of the coalition leaders last evening where Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan failed to reach agreement on a target.
The government had been hoping to secure consensus on an emissions target for agriculture in time for this morning’s Cabinet meeting, the final gathering before the summer recess.
However, it now remains unclear if this will be achieved or if the discussions will again be pushed back until later in the year.
The sectoral ceilings, which were originally due in June, form part of the carbon budgets outlined by government back in April.
The target for emissions reductions in the agriculture sector is set to fall within the range of 22-30%, based on 2018’s emissions levels.
It is understood that the Green Party favours a target closer to 30% while some Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs, particularly those in rural constituencies, want a lower limit for the sector.
Sinn Féin has not outlined its position on a specific target for agriculture as it said it is awaiting more scientific information on the matter.
The Social Democrats climate spokesperson, Jennifer Whitmore claimed that the government and opposition were “running scared from a decision” which she added was “not helpful”.
“It is clear from the science and the independent advice that agriculture will still need to meet 30% reductions, a reality the government refuses to acknowledge or deal with,” she said.
“If the government isn’t prepared to take those hard decisions now, it will inevitably have to happen in a few years from now before the 2030 target date.
“Leaving the hard decisions until then will make it much harder in the long run for farming families who have been subjected to a Punch and Judy show between government ministers and backbenchers over the last couple of weeks over sectoral targets,” Whitmore added.
Speaking in advance of the meeting of coalition leaders, Friends of the Earth chief executive, Oisín Coghlan, said:
“This is the right time for a deal, but it has to be the right deal. It has to be strong enough to signal transformational change in all sectors and to all stakeholders.
“While farmers need every support to reduce pollution while increasing incomes, big agri-business and their lobbyists must realise they can no longer dictate Irish climate policy.
“We’ve put a 51% reduction in emissions into law now and every sector has to step up and do its fair share,” he continued.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael surely realise that this is the reason the Green Party went into government.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Greens were prepared to fight an election on this issue, I doubt those Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers looking for further concessions for agriculture are that keen on an election,” Coghlan concluded.