The European Parliament has approved demanding new targets for reducing emissions coming from the agricultural sector as well as transport and construction by 30% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, Mairéad McGuinness MEP and vice-president of the European Parliament, confirmed on Tuesday.
In welcoming Tuesday’s vote, McGuinness said: "We are moving in the right direction to meet EU commitments under the historic Paris climate change agreement and all sectors must do their part to reduce their climate impact.
"In the case of agriculture, some flexibility is provided for in an acknowledgement that emission reductions in this area are difficult to achieve and recognising the need for food security.
"Agriculture can offset emissions through carbon sequestration and Ireland has been given the second highest level of flexibility in the EU to use forestry, wetlands and other land change to offset emissions as part of the so-called LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use change and Forestry) flexibility."
More work needed
Significant work is under way to reduce emissions from agriculture, but more will be needed, according to the Midlands-North West MEP."
"These last few months have demonstrated the devastating impact of changing and unpredictable weather patterns on farming activity with prolonged wet weather hitting fodder supplies and delaying grass growth, which will have a knock-on effect on next season and on farm incomes," said McGuinness.
Agriculture can offset emissions through carbon sequestration and Ireland has been given the second highest level of flexibility in the EU to use forestry, wetlands and other land change to offset emissions
ICOS, the umbrella body for the co-operatives, recently confirmed that co-ops are facilitating dairy farmers to plant trees on their holdings, but more will need to be done.
"Agriculture accounts for a large part, in fact, over 30% of Ireland's greenhouse emissions. But there is room for improvement in the transport sector, by more focus on electric vehicles – public and private and in the construction sector an emphasis is needed on energy efficiency and retro-fitting of buildings," McGuinness added.
Seán Kelly, MEP for Ireland South and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, also welcomed what he considers to be a “pragmatic approach” to the setting of 2030 climate targets following the approval of the text by parliament on Tuesday.
Kelly said: "While it was a long and difficult road, I am pleased that the final agreement that we have approved here this morning finds the right balance between having a high level of ambition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also allows the required flexibility to ensure we don’t put unfair requirements on our farmers.
"In my work on this file over the past 18 months, I have stressed that we must strive to ensure that our actions to combat climate change go hand-in-hand with maintaining the competitiveness of our key sectors in Europe. This was not the view shared by a number of MEPs in parliament, whose proposals would have decimated the European agricultural sector.
“Thankfully, we were able to build strong majorities against the extremes and, with this agreement, we will ensure commitments under the Paris Agreement are fulfilled, but also that our transition to a low-carbon economy is done in a fair and just way."
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