The government should recognise that agriculture is stepping up to the mark on climate change and respond itself when considering carbon budgets, according to independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice.
The public representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency told environment minister, Eamon Ryan, recently in the Dáil that the government needs to improve its own response, rather than place more restrictions on rural Ireland.
“This is a time when communities and especially the agricultural sector are stepping up to the mark when it comes to climate action,” the deputy said.
“By contrast, the government is failing to maximise opportunities to meet key climate change targets.”
The independent TD said that a group from the agriculture committee recently visited Devenish Farm in Co. Meath.
“We spent five or six hours going around the farm looking at how it measured hedgerows and carbon on the trees, and how it used different types of grasses,” he said.
“It is a carbon-neutral farm. It is one of the main farms of eight or nine throughout the world picked so different universities can study these matters.
“Critically, the farm is able to nail down the amount of carbon sequestered in trees or hedgerows by using light detection and ranging, LiDAR, systems on a helicopter.”
“In the past week or two, I have heard that Teagasc – which gets a lot of money from the state – and the government are not looking at hedgerows in considering the carbon tonnage sequestered around the country,” Fitzmaurice added.
“I am led to believe that Teagasc doesn’t have the figures for the carbon sequestered by hedgerows and trees.”
The TD made the point that Ireland is about to implement carbon budgets, adding however that we still do not know where we are starting from, because we do not know what is sequestered.
“It is a damn bad way of doing things and puts pressure on people,” deputy Fitzmaurice claimed.
“The agricultural community does not mind stepping up to the mark, but it does not want to have to act with false figures.
“Why has the government not brought in expertise from Devenish Farm, which has done all this work, to help Teagasc or the government itself, to formulate more accurate figures?
“I drive every day from Galway and for every yard of the road, there are plenty of hedgerows,” he added.
“The deputy said that it is his understanding that hedgerows should be counted for sequestration purposes.
“I have heard in the past week that this will not be one method of offset, and farmers will not have this as a mitigating measure when there are so many hedgerows around the country.
Concluding, the rural TD noted that the consequence of the lack of understanding on this issue was that “we are foisting something on farmers without knowing the accurate figures before we start.
“That is the very definition of a pointless action,” he concluded.