EU demands 30% cut in agri emissions by 2030 in new targets

New targets demanding the reduction of emissions coming from agriculture by 30% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, have been approved by the European Parliament this week, Mairead McGuinness – MEP and Vice-President of Parliament – has confirmed.

As well as agriculture, the targets will apply to transport and construction.

In welcoming the vote, McGuinness said: “This effort sharing regulation requires action across these sectors, which are not covered by the established Emissions Trading System.

‘Sectors must do their part’

“We are moving in the right direction to meet EU commitments under the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement and all sectors must do their part to reduce their climate impact.

Today’s vote makes specific and exacting demands on agriculture, construction and transport.

“In the case of agriculture, some flexibility is provided for in an acknowledgement that emission reductions in this area are difficult to achieve and recognising the need for food security,” she added.

“Agriculture can offset emissions through carbon sequestration and Ireland has been given the second highest level of flexibility in the EU to use forestry, wetlands and other land change to offset emissions as part of the so-called LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use change and Forestry) flexibility.”

Significant work is underway to reduce emissions from agriculture, but more will be needed, according to the Midlands-North West MEP, who is also a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

“Equally, the debate about forestry, the location of plantations and species selection is divisive and so to date Ireland has failed to achieve its planting targets, which will put additional pressure on achieving emission reduction targets.

Effects of climate change

“2016 was the warmest year on record, followed by 2015 and 2017 according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

The effects of climate change are upon us and we see increased frequency in flooding around Ireland and Europe.

“Farmers are very aware of the damage climate change can do and understand the need for action,” McGuinness stressed.

“These last few months have demonstrated the devastating impact of changing and unpredictable weather patterns on farming activity with prolonged wet weather hitting fodder supplies and delaying grass growth, which will have a knock on effect on next season and on farm incomes,” said McGuinness.

ICOS, the umbrella body for the co-operatives, recently confirmed that co-ops are facilitating dairy farmers to plant trees on their holdings, but more will need to be done.

Ireland a ‘laggard’

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in January, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Ireland is a “laggard” in meeting its previous emissions targets, but also noted that Ireland does not have the same level of heavy industry as other member states.

“Agriculture accounts for a large part – over 30% of Ireland’s greenhouse emissions. But there is room for improvement in the transport sector, by more focus on electric vehicles – public and private and in the construction sector an emphasis is needed on energy efficiency and retro-fitting of buildings,” McGuinness added.

Monday’s announcement of grant aid of up to €3,500 for heat pumps for domestic dwellings is a welcome development as Ireland ranks among the highest in the EU for carbon emissions from homes.

Moving to renewable heating like heat pumps will be crucial for driving down emissions to meet our targets, according to the MEP.