Talks on agriculture emissions cuts to go to the wire

Cabinet sub-committee on climate change met on Monday but failed to reach agreement on extent of cuts

Efforts by the Coalition parties to break the deadlock on agricultural emissions are expected to go to the wire this week amid continuing internal tensions in Government on the issue.

The Government has promised that emissions sectoral ceilings for six sectors will be announced by the end of this week. The decision was to be made in mid July but was delayed after agreement could not be reached between the three Coalition parties.

The Climate Change Advisory Council has recommended a range of cuts between 22 per cent and 30 per cent for agriculture. Significant numbers of TDs and Senators within Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have insisted on the final figure being at the lower end of the scale, while Green Party TDs have consistently called for it to be close to 30 per cent.

The Cabinet sub-committee on climate change met for more than two hours on Monday afternoon in an effort to find a solution. It was attended by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, in addition to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.


However, the meeting ended with no final agreement.

“The meeting was constructive. There will be further engagement over the coming days. It’s still anticipated that the sectoral ceilings for all six sectors will be approved by the end of this week,” said a spokesperson.

The three party leaders will meet again on Tuesday in advance of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the final meeting before the summer break. Government sources signalled that while suggestions including technology and review clauses have been put forward as possible solutions to the deadlock on setting agriculture emissions targets, there has been no agreement yet.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan warned on Monday that he won’t be supporting the Government if the target set in agriculture will result in reductions in the national herd.

“Both party leaders are saying that wouldn’t be the case. I’ll be sticking to their word,” he said. However, he added: “If they break their commitments, all options are open.”

Mr Phelan was one of six Fine Gael signatories to a statement on Monday that argued that the “current narrative” that placed all the blame on farmers and rural dwellers was “just not accurate” and warned others to stop “finger pointing” at farmers and scapegoating them.

Three other TDs — David Stanton, Charlie Flanagan and Paul Kehoe — as well as Senators John Cummins and Garret Ahearn signed the statement. They said they were not climate change deniers but called for “fair play” for farming families.

“Do we want our food coming from factory farms in other parts of the world with little or no regulation? The simple fact is that when it comes to food production, Ireland is among the most sustainable countries in the world,” the statement said.

Marc Ó Cathasaigh was one of several Green TDs who said on Monday that any shortfall in agriculture commitments would have to be made up by the five other sectors.

“Agriculture is our largest source of emissions and is already being set a lower target than any other sectors. So there’s no sense in my mind that agriculture is being scapegoated or unfairly treated,” he said.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times