Methane reduction target would ‘reduce output and cost jobs’ – IFA

Proposals from Fine Gael to introduce a reduction target for methane would be “damaging to Ireland’s rural economy and global climate emissions”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Thomas Cooney, the association’s environment chairperson, called for a “well-funded climate action strategy” for the agricultural sector.

“Farmers are tired of being kicked around and scapegoated when it comes to climate action,” Cooney stressed.

The fact is that transport remains Ireland’s biggest climate problem, not livestock. Climate emissions from transport have increased by 137% since 1990, while emissions associated with farming have only increased by 1%.

Cooney also called for “better science rather than unachievable targets”.

“Methane is a short-lived gas, which lasts about 12 years in the atmosphere. Yet it is being benchmarked and wrongly compared to carbon dioxide, which can last 200 years in the atmosphere,” the IFA’s environment chair highlighted.

He also pointed out that, at present, the science or technology does not exist to allow farmers to reduce methane emissions without also reducing production.

This means that any call to cut methane will target Ireland’s largest indigenous sector. The agri-sector employs over 300,000 people across every parish in Ireland, and exports over €12.1 billion.

“These exports have grown by almost €5 billion over the past decade. It’s time we move beyond targets to a clear climate strategy, which improves farm-level profitability; increases economic activity in rural areas; and reduces environmental impact,” Cooney argued.

The IFA is calling for “crude climate targets” to be replaced with a plan that includes the following “key actions”:

  • An increase in the budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to compensate farmers for climate action;
  • A biomass development programme;
  • The reopening of the Green, Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS);
  • The introduction of a zero-carbon electricity tariff for farm-based renewable projects;
  • Funding for the development of farm and community-scale anaerobic digestors;
  • The “scaling up” of on-farm emission reduction programmes identified in the National Mitigation Plan;
  • A review of forestry policy to remove barriers to planting;
  • A “coherent and fully funded strategy” for the development of a viable horticulture and arable sector.

Cooney concluded his remarks by saying: “Ireland will this year spend millions of euros buying carbon credit to comply with EU 2020 targets. This expenditure represents a failure to invest in the future proofing of rural communities.”