The View from Europe: EU framework on climate and energy for 2030 announced yesterday has been seen by newly elected Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Eddie Downey as a repeat of the same mistakes made in climate policy when previous emission reduction targets were set.

The new framework will take into account agricultural emissions. The commission says this is to ensure all sectors contribute to in a cost-effective way to the mitigation efforts. The commission notes the sector both emits and removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The framework has a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 40 per cent below 1990 levels, to be achieved through domestic measures alone (ie without the use of international credits). For agriculture, which will be seen as a non- emissions trading sector, the reduction target will be 30 per cent compared with 2005.

The framework outlines that further analysis will be undertaken to access the potential reductions in emissions that could be made in the sector and to discover what policy measures would be appropriate to achieve reductions.

The commission also notes that any measures will build on the experiences from “greening” under the Common Agricultural Policy and ensure coherence with other EU policies

According to IFA president Eddie Downey: “The failure by the commission to recognise the need to support the development of emission efficient and sustainable food production is a continuation of inadequate climate policy at EU level. Ireland, like many other EU member states, produces food to the highest environmental standards, with greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of product amongst the lowest in the world.”

He added: “The global population is increasing and there is growing demand for protein foods like beef and milk that farmers in Ireland produce sustainably. This EU framework plan has failed to address the issue of carbon leakage as it relates to agriculture. Unless it is addressed, sustainable food produced in Ireland will be displaced by food from former Amazonian rainforest lands in South America.”

Downey cited: “The EU Council and European Parliament have been asked to agree to further emission reduction targets this year. However, this must not be allowed to be take place until a better balance is achieved between food production and climate policy, at EU level and in the international negotiations.”

The framework also sets out a new renewable energy target of at least 27 per cent of energy consumption above 1990 levels, with flexibility for member states to set national objectives.

On this element Downey said: “The increased EU renewable energy target can only be achieved in Ireland if the existing REFIT and biofuel obligation scheme is radically overhauled. Many farmers have now lost confidence in Government’s biomass and land based renewables policy, diverting lands back into grassland from bio-energy production, having suffered substantial financial losses.”

The new framework is expected to be discussed by the European Council at its spring meeting in March, before going to the European Parliament for approval.