Political support for climate measures linked to scale of public investment

Government backbenchers express backing but want ‘carrot’ deployed ahead of ‘stick’

Divisions over the role to be played by agriculture in reducing emissions remain with Jackie Cahill TD saying he is opposed to cutting cattle numbers, something that would be a ‘red line’ for him.

Divisions over the role to be played by agriculture in reducing emissions remain with Jackie Cahill TD saying he is opposed to cutting cattle numbers, something that would be a ‘red line’ for him.

 

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the proposed Carbon Budgets must be “fair” and use the “carrot” rather than the “stick”, Government TDs have said.

On Monday, the Climate Change Advisory Council’s (CCAC) published recommended targets for cutting Ireland’s overall emissions as part of the goal of a 51 per cent reduction by 2030.

Senior Fianna Fáil backbenchers responded saying there must be grants and supports for those impacted by the significant transformation required to meet the targets.

The proposed five-year Carbon Budgets call for a reduction in emissions of 4.8 per cent on average each year from 2021 to 2025 and an annual 8.3 per cent on average cut from 2026 to 2030.

The Government must set out sectoral ceilings in areas like transport and agriculture and these are expected to be published as early as next week as part of the Climate Action Plan.

Sources have previously said that agriculture faces an emissions cut of 21-30 per cent, though electricity generation is to do much of the heavy-lifting elsewhere with cuts as high as 80 per cent through the planned switch to renewables.

Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen said the targets in the CCAC proposals “seem appropriate” but that “enabling measures must be fair, just and realistic”.

He said there will have to be grants and investment and a “dividend” for farm families and people in regions like the Midlands which have been “impacted negatively already by acceleration of decarbonisation”.

Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill said he will have to see the “small print” of how emissions reductions will be achieved but said “a carrot is a far better weapon than the stick” and there are ways of meeting targets while not damaging the “economic viability of rural Ireland.

He said there are technological solutions to deliver greener agriculture including advances in making slurry more environmentally friendly, encouraging afforestation and the use of solar panels on farms.

‘Red line’

Mr Cahill said he’s opposed to cutting the national cattle herd which is understood to be favoured by the Green Party and this would be a “red line” for him.

A spokeswoman for Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said that he has “made it clear on several occasions that he supports further incentives for farmers to adopt greener measures and increase forestry.”

She added: “The agriculture sector is not expected to cut emissions at the same rate as other sectors but it must play its part.

“Organic farming and diversification, including increased forestry, are likely to lead to a natural reduction in herd numbers over time as some land is used for other purposes.”

The United Nations’ COP26 Climate Summit begins in Glasgow on Sunday and the Cabinet is expected to be updated on Ireland’s involvement in it today.

Ministers are also set to be briefed on a report by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) which recommends North-South collaboration on climate and diversity through the Department of the Taoiseach’s Shared Island project.

There was a broad acceptance that the higher emissions cuts will take place in the second of the two proposed carbon budgets.

CCAC chairwoman Marie Donnelly told RTÉ on Tuesday that investment is needed now to allow for increased reduction in emissions later in the decade, giving the rollout of offshore wind as an example.

Sinn Féin’s environment spokesman Darren O’Rourke said public investment must be “front-loaded” so that the greater cuts in later years are achieved. He questioned if the targets would be met given the scale of the challenge.

Mr Ryan’s spokeswoman said: “The government is fully aware of the need for public investment and has already set out detailed multi-billion euro commitments to fund retrofitting, public transport and other climate actions through the National Development Plan.”

In an unusual move, the CCAC’s carbon budgets proposals were published on a bank holiday.

A spokeswoman said the council meeting was scheduled for that day “to facilitate the attendance of Council members”.