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Leah Farrell
Climate Change

'It ain't just agriculture': Minister says other sectors must 'step up' to meet carbon emission targets

The sectoral carbon emission targets were due to be published before the summer recess.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said there is little point in fighting with his Green Party Government partners over the sectoral carbon emissions targets that are due to be issued shortly. 

Legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions from sectors such as agriculture and electricity were expected to be agreed by Government before the summer recess. 

However, with the Dáil rising today, Government sources state that the targets will not be released for a “few weeks”. 

Ireland has a number of climate targets in place all centred around the requirement to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

The country agreed its first carbon budgets earlier this year which set out an overall limit on emissions that the country must stay under to reach crucial climate goals. 

Sectoral emissions ceilings – which will set a limit on emissions from different sectors over a certain time period – are currently being discussed within government departments.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan met with the Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue yesterday about the targets for his sector. 

Ryan said “they were good discussions, because we’re going into the real detail of what the transformation is going to have to be”. 

When put to the Taoiseach today that there is some concern within the Green Party that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will opt for a “watery version” of our overall carbon emission targets, the Taoiseach said: 

“There is nothing, I can assure you, ‘watery’ in terms of the Government’s proposals around climate change. The targets themselves are extremely challenging, and will be extremely challenging for all sectors, particularly transport, and particularly agriculture.

And to use the phrase, ‘are we willing to fight against people’… once you start fighting, you’re kind of already losing to a certain extent. We have to take firm decisions. But we have to bring the communities with us, we have to take people with us.

It is understood that a number of backbench TDs and senators at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting raised concerns about a target of 30% being set for the agriculture sector, with politicians telling their party leader Leo Varadkar that anything over 23% would result in a reduction in the herd.  

The combined emissions limits between sectors will amount to the overall carbon budgets for certain time periods.

The first carbon budget covering 2021 to 2025, for example, allows for a total of 295 million tonnes (Mt) of emissions to be produced.

So agriculture, electricity and the other sectors will receive a certain portion of this budget up to 2025. 

Each minister will be accountable for the emissions from their sector.

Even if the country achieves its overall goals in the years ahead, sectors will still be seen as non-compliant if they do not stay within their individual targets once they are signed off. 

Speaking about the emissions targets, Ryan said:

“It ain’t just in agriculture. I’ve just spent the morning talking to city and county managers around the country about the need for us to step up on transport. That’s going to be a huge challenge. And so it’s not any one sector. It won’t work if it’s kind of, you know, ‘oh that sector is the key problem. They’re the ones to blame’.

“That’s not the way to approach it. It’s it’s going to change every aspect of Irish society for the better.” 

The Taoiseach said the Government must work together to continue to “persuade and convince people that this is about society’s well being, and above all, about the well being of future generations”. 

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