Bruton emphasises need for decarbonisation to defensive IFA

Minister urges ‘a change in the way farming has to think about itself’ at agm

IFA president Joe Healy: told farmers at agm they were being unfairly blamed for Ireland’s immense emissions problem.   Photograph: Alan Betson

IFA president Joe Healy: told farmers at agm they were being unfairly blamed for Ireland’s immense emissions problem. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Irish farmers stoutly defended their response to climate change but the Minister responsible for curbing emissions was equally robust in seeking decarbonisation.

It was far from the climate change crusader entering the den of climate deniers but sharp differences between both parties were made immediately clear when Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton addressed the annual meeting of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

He engaged in intense discussion with the farmers present over a 90-minute period, after their president, Joe Healy, had set out a series of red lines and later declared, “The CAP [common agricultural policy] is the only cap I want.” He was emphatic in claiming his members were being unfairly blamed for Ireland’s immense emissions problem.

Emissions reduction

It wasn’t quite a Thatcherite “Out...out...out”, but he ruled out any targeting of farmers by way of new quotas, livestock culling or carbon tax hike in an effort to get Ireland’s emissions into reduction mode .

He outlined in detail an impressive list of measures where they are delivering tangible reductions in emissions, which Mr Bruton fully acknowledged.

The Minister astutely avoided getting into a blame game, but he was not going to be distracted from imposing sectoral targets to be included in an imminent Government plan in an effort to avoid a €5.5 billion penalty it could not afford.

The Minister commended agriculture as one of Ireland’s greatest industries but said it would have to face up to a radically changing economic scenario in a 2050 world where the price of carbon would be €265 a tonne.

This would require “a change in the way farming has to think about itself”.

It would be very much about managing greenhouse gas emissions, how the farm is run, the production mix and a much-changed CAP. The European Commission would require member states to deliver on sustainability and emissions reductions “before signing off on supports”.