The Minister for Agriculture has said he is “very committed” to achieving a 51 per cent reduction in Ireland’s emissions by 2030, as negotiations continue over targets for the agriculture sector.
Tensions are high within the Government ahead of a deadline next week to agree a final target for the sector, with the Climate Action Plan setting out an emissions cut between 22 and 30 per cent.
Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan is pushing for the higher target, while the Irish Farmers' Association argues the minimum cut of 22 per cent is the one that can be achieved.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on Sunday said he was not paying attention to media speculation over the negotiations, and described ongoing talks with Mr Ryan as “productive”.
“The Sunday papers is not where the negotiations are at and there’s very productive and constructive engagement over the last few weeks, and indeed this has been ongoing now for many months across Government departments," he told Newstalk radio.
“What we want to do now in the best timeframe possible is agree these sectoral targets for each sector of the economy because it is a key objective of the Government and one which we are all very committed to – of reaching the 51 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
“Obviously until you have a deal done it’s really impossible to know when it will happen, but certainly in terms of the effort that’s going in across Government and the effort that’s going in, in terms of my own officials working with Minister Ryan’s officials, there’s really productive work ongoing.
“The key objective I’ve had throughout this process is to get a conclusion and an outcome that minimises in every way the emissions footprint of how we produce food, but really importantly, backs family farms to do that massively important work that they do in relation to producing food.”
Ireland's agriculture sector accounts for 37 per cent of the country's total carbon output.
Member of Ireland's Climate Change Advisory Council, Dr Cara Augustenborg, said farmers need to raise their ambitions in line with the energy, transport and construction sectors.
“The other sectors have already agreed to the most ambitious end of the scale for their targets, so they have said they are willing to do as much as they possibly can to reach those emissions targets, whereas agriculture has been the big hold-out," she said.
“They’re saying we’re only willing to do the lower end of that target, that 22 per cent, and unfortunately if agriculture doesn’t raise their ambition, then it really calls into question the entire process and the ability to meet our targets.”