Stop Climate Chaos calls on Goverment to make sure all sectors, including agriculture, do their fair share of emission cuts
Decision on sectoral emissions targets a key litmus test for Government commitment to climate action
July 20 2022, 12:56pm
With the Ministers for Climate and Agriculture due to hold crunch talks today on the emissions target for the agriculture sector, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition  of overseas aid, environment, youth, health and voluntary organisations has called on the Government to make sure that all sectors, including agriculture, do their fair share of emissions cuts. The campaign group points out that every sector must cut pollution at the upper end of proposed ranges  if Ireland is going to meet our overall 2030 emissions target that is now enshrined in law.
The decision on the sectoral ceilings has been delayed, according to media reports , because the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, has been holding out for cuts at the lowest end of the proposed range of 22%. If agriculture cuts emissions by just 22%, rather than the proposed 30%, this means that the rest of society has to cut pollution three times as fast as agriculture.
Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland said:
“We have been pointing out, for some time, the stark reality of carbon inequality, the fact that the emissions of the richest 1% of humanity are double that of the poorest 50% of humanity - because of their privileged positions. We have found similar levels of emissions inequality in Ireland. Likewise, there can’t be any protected positions among Irish sectors in meeting their requirements under the Climate Law, just as there can’t be any inequality among rich nations in reaching our agreed climate targets.
"All of us must play our part, and all of the Irish sectors must reach the upper end of their Sectoral Emissions Ceilings targets to avert further climate catastrophe. A Just Transition for farmers, especially small farmers, must be supported and accelerated. As things stand, Ireland’s emissions of greenhouse gases are 53% higher than the EU28 average and the second highest in the EU. Can we really stand over that as a nation as forest fires and soaring temperatures engulf Europe and as 23 million people in the Horn of Africa face hunger due to climate change driven drought? We all need to play our part now.”
Research by UCC Professor Hannah Daly  has shown that if the agriculture sector was allowed to cut at 22% then on top of all the existing measures in other sectors we would need to take one quarter of all cars off the road by 2030, or all vans, or close cement factories, or bring another quarter of all houses to zero pollution, or every household would face an extra €5,000 in costs to make up for the extra pollution that agriculture wants to still be able to emit.
Commenting, Oisín Coghlan, CEO of Friends of the Earth said:
“Putting such an extra burden on commuters, householders and other business so that agriculture can avoid making the big changes we all have to make is neither fair nor feasible. Every other sector other than agriculture has already agreed to cut emissions at the top of the range. Agriculture has already been given ‘special consideration’. Its proposed cut of 30% is only half the 60% the rest of the economy and society has to do. If the Government makes further concessions to agriculture, who is going to explain to motorists, hauliers, householders and other businesses that they have to make even more expensive cuts?"
Friends of the Earth recently called on the Taoiseach to convene Coalition party leaders to reach an agreement on sectoral ceilings that doesn't undermine the credibility of the Climate Law .
Oonagh Duggan, Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said:
“There are opportunities for agriculture in diversifying away from predominant livestock production to support wider choice in food and in restoring biodiversity. A new nature restoration law will require significant and large scale restoration of habitats and wildlife populations. Ireland has led in the roll out of results-based agri-environment schemes and with the appropriate national and EU funding supports more farmers can play an even stronger role in restoring peatlands, semi-natural grasslands, woodlands and in the marine. Our wild bird populations are suffering badly. Policies targeting cuts in emissions must ensure that bird populations are safeguarded and restored. We need healthy ecosystems to build resilience to climate breakdown and to give nature a fighting chance”.
Caroline Whyte from Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, commented:
"It's vital for all of our futures that sectoral emissions reduction targets be treated by everyone involved as a cooperative effort rather than a zero-sum game. Instead of trying to kick the can down the road by minimising their 2030 emissions target, the agricultural sector can and should launch boldly into a 'deep collaboration' with the transport and buildings sectors, focusing on developing a more localised and diverse Irish food system together. This would not only enable them to meet their emissions reduction targets; it would also generate good-quality farm employment, help to relieve the Irish housing crisis - making it easier for consumers to pay farmers a decent amount for their produce - and improve overall quality of life for everyone in Ireland.”
The Government is still expected to make a decision on the sectoral emissions ceilings before it breaks for August. The last Cabinet meeting is Wednesday 27th July.
Notes for the editor
- Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) is a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays its part in preventing runaway climate change. It was launched in 2007 and is the largest network of organisations campaigning for action on climate change in Ireland. Its membership includes development, environmental, youth, health and voluntary organisations. Its members are: Action Aid, Afri, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Clare PPN, Climate and Health Alliance, Comhlámh, Community Work Ireland, Concern Worldwide, Cultivate, Cyclist.ie, Dublin Friends of the Earth, Eco Congregation Ireland, ECO UNESCO, Feasta, Friends of the Earth, Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Irish Doctors for the Environment, Irish Heart Foundation, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Just Forests, National Women’s Council of Ireland, National Youth Council of Ireland, Oxfam Ireland, Trócaire, Union of Students in Ireland, and VOICE.
- The upper end of the reduction ranges proposed by the Government last year for each sector are 81% for electricity, 50% for transport, 56% for buildings, 41% for industry, and 30% for agriculture.
- Recent media reports on the delay in agreeing the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings:
- Professor Hannah Daly’s (UCC, MaREI) analysis of what it would mean for all other sectors of society if agriculture cuts emissions by 22% rather than 30%: https://www.marei.ie/the-challenge-of-allocating-irelands-carbon-budget-among-sectors/
- See https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/letter_to_taoiseach_on_sectoral_emissions_ceilings_2022-0712.pdf