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Policy goals ‘not to reduce, increase or stabilise the herd’ – Green Party

The Green Party has stated that “the goal of our agricultural emissions reduction policy and our agricultural climate policy is not to reduce, increase or stabilise the herd”.

Instead, it said that the objective is to “cut emissions and, at the same time, to increase farm incomes”.

That is what deputy Ossian Smyth told the Dáil during a debate on climate change policy on Tuesday, December 14th, 2021.

The deputy appeared before the house to represent Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan.

Climate policy 

The Climate Action Plan 2021 commits to reducing emissions from the agricultural sector to 16-18 MtC02eq by 2030, a 22% to 30% reduction from 2018 levels.

He said the sector would achieve this by “committing to a set of core measures which will deliver a minimum level of carbon emission reductions and also by a set of other measures which will aim to go even further”.

He told the Dáil: “The goal is to cut emissions and increase farm incomes. Farmers may choose to reduce their herd if that is the best way for them to get there.”

He said that agricultural emissions are “incredibly complex and a very simple solution to reducing them will never be found”.

“It is much more complex than the other sectors. There are emissions, and then there are removals going into soil, plants, and animals.”

Methane and carbon sequestration

The deputy went on to say that methane is “extremely damaging” to the environment.

He added that some farm groups are beginning to understand that this is a “significant opportunity, that cuts to methane emissions will be very beneficial to the climate and that farmers have an opportunity in the context of methane not being released”.

“Whatever ways are chosen, farmers will be a significant part of the solution,” he stressed.

He said that farming and agriculture are “a different kind of sector” from others because they have the opportunity to sequester carbon.

For example, he added that this opportunity does not exist in the transport or energy sectors.

“Farmers have the possibility to have negative emissions,” he added.

Key measures

The core measures in the Climate Action Plan 2021 include:

  • Efficiencies across the agricultural sector;
  • Diversification measures, including increasing organic production and biomethane production.

He said further measures would be required to meet the targets set for this sector.

Smyth stated that these include:

  • Introducing a model for carbon farming;
  • Exploring feed-related methane reduction solutions;
  • Conducting a diversification review which will include an assessment on the wider production of biomethane.

Combined, he said these measures will ensure that the agriculture sector meets its targets for 2030. He said they also set pathways towards climate neutrality by 2050.

He stated the key metrics for delivering its climate ambition would be:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Farmers’ incomes;
  • Other “key” environmental indicators.

“The measures set out in the Climate Action Plan will offer farmers ways to reduce carbon emissions at farm level by becoming more efficient and will also offer opportunities for diversification.”

In conclusion, he said these are opportunities that will protect farmers’ income and, at the same time, Ireland’s reputation for producing “high quality and sustainable” produce.

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