PoliticsClimate Crisis

Ireland must take immediate steps to prepare for impact of climate change, Government to be warned

Ministers for Agriculture and Climate to meet in attempt to set emissions target for agricultural sector

The Government must take immediate steps to prepare for the consequences of disruptive climate change, Ministers will be warned today as heat waves with record temperatures and wildfires continue to plague Europe and the UK.

The Climate Change Advisory Council, an independent body which advises the Government on climate matters, will today issue an opinion on the Government’s plan to adapt to climate change and say that while a solid foundation has been put in place, more needs to be done urgently to prepare for the changes that a warming climate will bring.

It will say that efforts to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions have often overshadowed the need to prepare for the effects of climate change which are already inevitable.

The warning comes as heatwaves continued all over Europe. In the UK, the temperature reached more than 40 degrees for the first time, while firefighters in London declared a major incident due to “a huge surge” in fires.


In Ireland temperatures were slightly cooler than record levels reached on Monday, with thunderstorms offering a respite from the heat.

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It comes as Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan will meet today in an attempt to reach an agreement on a binding target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector. The Government has already decided agriculture will have to reduce emissions by between 22 and 30 per cent by 2030, but Ministers must decide on the exact target soon.

Farmers’ groups and many Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs have argued for a target at the lower end, while the Green Party and climate activists are pushing for a higher number. Some academics and activists have warned accepting a lower agriculture target would mean that the targets in other areas, such as transport, would be unrealistically high.

But farming organisations have said 22 per cent is as high as they can go. Yesterday Mr Ryan met farming organisations and farmers at Gurteen Agricultural College in Tipperary where he argued changes in farming practice would offer opportunities to make money from land use changes, such as forestry and rewetting.

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Senior political sources said they did not expect agreement to be reached on a plan today, but were optimistic a breakthrough could be achieved before the middle of next week when the Cabinet meets for the last time before the August break.

Speaking in Japan where he is on an official visit, Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed the concerns of his backbenchers and of farming organisations about climate action measures damaging food production. Mr Martin said the State had to balance its policies with the need for food security.

“[The war in Ukraine] illustrates how fragile food supplies can become very quickly in the world and across Europe. But have to make sure we are energy efficient and in the production of food,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas agriculture committee will today hear arguments about how the impact of methane on global warming is calculated. Some scientists and farmers’ representatives argue that the gas — the principal greenhouse gas produced by agriculture — should be counted differently from other gases, such as carbon dioxide, which remain in the atmosphere for longer.

Committee chairman Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill said last night the role of methane needs to be better understood.

But climate scientist Prof Barry McMullin of DCU will tell the committee: “It is absolutely essential that mass emissions of methane fall rapidly and substantially. This is true globally, and is especially true for Ireland because of its unusually large per capita emissions of methane.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times