Irish Farmers Association (IFA) officers recently joined representatives of business, trade unions, social policy groups and environmental NGOs at the third of four meetings of the Oireachtas climate committee to discuss impending carbon budgets.
The budgets aim to ration the emissions each sector will be allowed to produce up to 2030. The agricultural sector, which is responsible for more than one third of national emissions, is expected to make cuts of 22-30pc.
IFA deputy president, Brian Rushe, expressed concern that 22pc would be a “huge challenge”. Saying that, “It is vital that the minimum reduction target of 22pc is attributed to agriculture, in recognition of the economic and social importance of the sector, the technical challenges to reduce emissions as well as the timeframe required for adoption,” he said.
He added that the reduction must be achieved by changes in breeding, feed and fertiliser practices, and capturing carbon in vegetation.
In Rushe’s view, farmers were fed up of being “talked at” in climate debates. “Farmers would feel that they are not at the table. They feel that they are on the menu,” he said.
But Oisín Coghlan of the Environmental Pillar pointed out that farmers were being asked to make less cuts than any other sector: “Any sector that argues they should reduce their pollution by less than the average, 51pc by 2030, is saying that some other sector should reduce by more than 51pc, and they should be asked which sector they think that should be.”
The National Economic and Social Council has been tasked with identifying where climate action measures will hit the sector, and how these can be eased.