Groups seek ‘fair’ EU emissions deal for Ireland

European leaders meeting in Brussels to discuss long-term climate change measures

Environmental activists dressed up as corporate lobbyists protest at the European summit in Brussels where government leaders are meeting for negotiations on climate targets. Photograph: EPA

Environmental activists dressed up as corporate lobbyists protest at the European summit in Brussels where government leaders are meeting for negotiations on climate targets. Photograph: EPA

 

Ireland should only accept an EU greenhouse gas emissions target that allows the country to offset agricultural emissions through afforestation, interest groups have said.

At a summit in Brussels today, EU leaders are expected to consider an overall target to cut greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent, a 27 per cent target for renewable energy consumption, and a 30 per cent target for energy efficiency.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will seek to convince his European Union counterparts that Ireland’s heavy dependence on agriculture should be taken into account when emissions targets are set.

He will argue that the Republic’s forests, grasslands and bogs—which absorb carbon from the atmosphere—should be taken into account when calculating emissions targets.

Employers’ group Ibec said Ireland’s “unique position” should be reflected in any agreement on emissions targets.

“Ireland should only accept a 2030 target that takes account of our unique emissions profile, and allows us to offset agricultural emissions through afforestation,” said the organisation’s head of energy and environment Neil Walker.

The 10-year environmental plan to be agreed in Brussels is sensitive for Ireland as the adoption of onerous targets to be enforced from 2020 would curtail the long term drive to build up the agriculture industry.

The Irish Farmers’ Association said its members’ “multi-functional role” of producing food and maintaining the environment has been “broadly ignored by other EU member states” in previous negotiations.

“It is now time for a fairer climate package for Ireland from Europe, one which recognises and supports the development of Ireland’s carbon-efficient model of food production,” said IFA president Eddie Downey.

“At this time of increasing global demand for protein based foods such as beef, it is important that past mistakes in climate talks are not repeated,” he said.

Trocaire has called on the Taoiseach to “acknowledge the critical threat of climate change to global food security” by ensuring the target for domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions is at least 55 per cent and that binding targets for renewable and energy efficiency are set at 45 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

The Irish Wind Energy Association welcomed the expected introduction of an EU renewable target of 27 per cent. Chief executive Kenneth Matthews said although a 30 per cent target would have been preferable, a 27 per cent renewable target was a positive move.

Writing in The Irish Times earlier this week, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy on climate change Mary Robinson called on the EU to show leadership on climate change at this week’s summit.