Ireland’s “current wave of finger-pointing” risks tarnishing Ireland’s reputation internationally as one of the “world’s most sustainable producers of top quality food”, a group of Fine Gael TDs and Senators has warned.
In a statement issued on Monday, the group argued other sectors of the Irish economy are producing higher emissions yet “the prevailing narrative being taken by many commentators in the media, environmental NGOs and others is that culling animals is the only way to save the planet”.
The statement notes it is correct to be setting ambitious carbon-emissions reduction targets but that “the false narrative” that places “all the blame on both farmers and rural dwellers” is “just not accurate”.
The statement is signed by TDs John Paul Phelan, David Stanton, Charlie Flanagan, Paul Kehoe and Senators John Cummins and Garret Ahearn. It was released in advance of Monday’s meeting between Coalition party leaders and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue that will attempt to break the deadlock on the scale of the carbon emissions cuts to be sought from the agriculture sector.
Before the meeting, senior sources indicated a reduction of 24 to 25 per cent by 2030 could be a possible compromise. Discussions between Ministers and officials over the past week have failed to agree the point between 22 and 30 per cent at which emissions of greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector will be expected to be reduced by before the end of the decade.
This has delayed the announcement of a Government-wide plan for emission-reduction ceilings to be sought from various sectors.
Fine Gael TDs and Senators from rural communities warned in Monday’s statement the world was facing international food shortages and “if we decimate our family farm sector, the food will have to be produced elsewhere”.
“Do we want our food coming from factory farms in other parts of the world with little or no regulation? Do we want to grow imports at a time when we’re trying to cut down on food miles?”
“The simple fact is that when it comes to food production, Ireland is among the most sustainable countries in the world,” the statement said.
The group underlined its members “are not climate deniers” but that “fair play” is urgently needed for rural Ireland. “Burden sharing is important. Farm families and all rural dwellers cannot and should not be scapegoated.”
Monday’s meeting will be followed by the final Cabinet meeting before the August break on Wednesday. If a deal cannot be agreed in the coming days, the issue will be kicked forward to September, further delaying the process of implementing the sectoral emissions ceilings.
Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and his party have made it clear they are pushing for a large cut in emissions, closer to 28 per cent, while Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, conscious of strong opposition among farmers as well as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil backbenchers, favours a cut closer to the lower limit.
The target for the transport sector is likely to be set at a 50 per cent reduction, while electricity generation is expected to reduce its emissions by 70 to 80 per cent, mostly driven by a switch to renewable energy.