With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stating this week that Ireland will not meet 2013-2020 EU reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and can only meet current EU climate commitments from 2021-2030, if all current plans and policies are fully implemented, Agriland asked Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, for his thoughts.

Regarding agriculture, the EPA said that a reduction of at least 16.5 Mt CO2 eq. between 2021 and 2030 is achievable by “accelerated uptake of measures such as low emissions slurry spreading techniques and switching to stabilised urea fertilisers for crops and pasture”.

With an increased emphasis on eco schemes and environmental measures in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – three of the nine objectives aim to enhance and improve our environmental and climate-change actions and ambitions – these too will play a significant part.

Minister Charlie McConalogue ruled out revisiting the massively over-subscribed Results Based Environment Agri Pilot Programme (REAP) and said that the design of a new flagship agri-environment scheme set to commence in 2023 is the focus now.

“I am constrained, as minister, in terms of what I can do in the CAP transition period between now and the end of 2022. So, I tried to maximise REAP to the best extent possible,” he said.

Running to the end of 2022, €10m pilot scheme, REAP, proved to be a victim of its own success, attracting five times the applicants than it could accommodate originally.

“The initial approval was for 2,000 applicants – obviously those in the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) were excluded – and it was five times over subscribed.

“I was able to push that to 5,000 applicants and that was a massive push. I would have loved to have had everyone in, I really would have, but I was constrained. So the objective now will have to be towards the design of the new flagship agri-environment scheme,” he said.

This new scheme is due to commence in January 2023. It will be informed by the results of REAP and it will succeed GLAS, which was extended for a year.

Some details about the scheme were revealed recently as details emerged about Ireland’s proposed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) National Strategic Plan.

It referred to the flagship agri-environment scheme as the Agri-Environment Climate Measure which will target three main areas: climate, biodiversity and water quality.

“Under that flagship agri-environmental scheme, the government commits contributing €1.5bn of carbon tax towards it up to 2030.

“This will be a key scheme in terms of supporting farm incomes but also in terms of delivering on our environmental objectives and climate-change objectives.”

Minister McConalogue added that he “would hope to achieve a budget” to extend GLAS for another year but that will be “up for discussion with the Department of Public Expenditure this late summer-autumn”, he said.