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Ireland (and our cows) seem happy with a new agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions

EU leaders have agreed to cut emissions by 40 per cent on 1990 levels at a summit in Brussels overnight.

Ireland's greenhouse gas targets are impacted by the country's large number of cows
Ireland's greenhouse gas targets are impacted by the country's large number of cows
Image: Shutterstock

Updated 11.05am 

EU LEADERS HAVE agreed what has been hailed as the world’s most ambitious climate change targets for 2030, paving the way for a new UN-backed global treaty next year.

The 28 leaders overcame deep divisions at a summit in Brussels to reach a deal including a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels.

A decision on how much each member state will have to reduce their emissions to achieve that goal has been delayed until after the UN conference next year.

RTÉ reports that the Irish government made considerable progress in ensuring a special provision has been made for the agriculture and forestry industries in the final text.

Ireland’s cattle livestock accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of Ireland’s greenhouses gas emission.

Responding to the overnight agreement, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said that the previous targets were “unrealistic and unachievable” and did not take into account Ireland’s dependence on agriculture “or the fact that we have one of the most climate-friendly agricultural systems in the world”.

He said that the decision taken by EU leaders was a “sensible compromise” and added:

“This deal recognises that we have secured recognition across the EU of the importance of a sustainable agriculture and land use sector, including afforestation, as a key consideration in ensuring coherence between the EU’s food security and climate change objectives.”

enda reporters The Taoiseach speaking to reporters in Brussels yesterday Source: European Council

Speaking prior to yesterday’s meeting Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters that the previous deal on greenhouse gases had left a “truly catastrophic” legacy for Ireland with targets set that were unreachable in the current financial circumstances.

He said that in the current negotiations. Ireland would be ambitious about targets for reducing emissions but added: “We don’t want to be in a position where completely unreachable targets are set for us.”

EU leaders also agreed on 27% targets for renewable energy supply and efficiency gains, in spite of reservations from some member states about the cost of the measures.

The EU wanted to agree on the targets ahead of a summit in Paris in November and December 2015, where it is hoped the world will agree to a new phase of the Kyoto climate accords which run until 2020.

The agreement puts the EU “in the driving seat” ahead of the Paris conference, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Environmental groups complained that the deal did not go far enough to cut global warming. Greenpeace said the EU had “pulled the handbrake on clean energy”.

“These targets are too low, slowing down efforts to boost renewable energy and keeping Europe hooked on polluting and expensive fuel,” it said.

- with reporting from AFP

First published 9.59am

Read: Our cows are emitting so much gas that Ireland is looking for help from the EU

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Hugh O'Connell

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