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Differing views for Citizens Assembly from IFA and environmentalists
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Differing views for Citizens Assembly from IFA and environmentalists

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In their submissions to the Citizens Assembly on ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’, the IFA and environmental organisations have offered differing opinions.
In their submissions to the Citizens Assembly on ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’, the IFA and environmental organisations have offered differing opinions.

IFA submission

In the Irish Farmers Association’s (IFA) submission, IFA president Joe Healy said that environmental sustainability must be considered in tandem with economic and social sustainability.

Healy said Ireland has a responsibility to act to tackle climate change, and agriculture has an important role to play, but the need to safeguard food production must be respected.

He pointed out that the guiding focus of EU and international climate policy is on emission-efficient food production, rather than reducing food production.

A strong agriculture sector in Ireland is critical to a balanced economy.

“Agriculture provides employment and generates earnings across the country and our national greenhouse gas emissions reflect the importance of agriculture to the country.

“Not all sectors are the same, with agriculture having other obligations, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As such, climate change cannot be dealt with in isolation.

“Wider policy objectives and societal implications must also be considered. This point is accepted in national, European and international climate policy, and is worth consideration.”

‘Ireland taking a leading position’

Healy said that in agriculture, Ireland is already taking a leading position in Europe by targeting European funding through the Common Agriculture Policy to areas that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector.

He said 87% of the measures in Ireland’s Rural Development Programme have climate-reducing elements.

“This climate focus of policy makers in Ireland is having a real impact, with emissions intensity per calorie of food output in 2013 approximately 14% below 2005.

“This figure is projected to reach 25% by 2030, based on the delivery of current policy measures.”

The IFA submission points out that the greatest and most cost-effective opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions come in the built environment, transport and energy sectors.

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and Environmental Pillar

Meanwhile, in its submission, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and the Environmental Pillar made a range of recommendations that would begin to take Ireland from being “a laggard to a leader” on climate action, according to the two civil society coalitions.

Speaking of behalf of the two coalitions, Oisín Coghlan said: “We’re excited that the Citizens’ Assembly is going to debate climate action.

“For too long Irish climate policy has been marked by dithering and delay. The Citizens’ Assembly has already shown itself capable of sophisticated analysis and radical recommendations.

“We hope they will now shake up Irish climate policy in the same way.

“The Oireachtas has asked the Assembly how can Ireland be a leader in tackling climate change. In fact, Ireland has been a laggard not a leader.

“Our emissions are rising not falling and we are going to miss our 2020 targets. So far, our political leaders have failed us on climate change.”

Recommendations

The recommendations, of which there were 18, ranged across all sectors of the economy and society: energy, buildings, transport and agriculture.

They included:

  • Confirm now that Ireland will stop burning peat for electricity in 2020.
  • Confirm now that Ireland will stop burning coal for electricity in 2022.
  • Seek to restore Ireland’s peatlands as a means of emissions reduction and carbon storage, and to assist in important biodiversity protection and flood protection.
  • Encourage and support a transition to a more plant-based diet for the sake of both our health and of the climate.
  • Support farmers to gradually transition away from intensive meat and dairy production.
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