The waiting is over, and farming has been set its carbon challenge. It’s one we should have no fear of. Instead, we must embrace it with confidence and positivity, but a few key points are worth highlighting.

1 The target: The first thing to acknowledge is that 22-30% is a manageable target for farming to work towards. With the Green Party in Government, many felt that farming would be thrown under the bus.

Some still think that has happened, but the reality is that in the context of an overall national target of 51%, this is as good as farming could have hoped for.

We will never know the internal horse-trading and debate that occurred within Cabinet, but it is to Charlie McConalogue’s credit that his late appointment to the agriculture portfolio didn’t prevent a workable outcome. It also is testament to the high standing of senior Department of Agriculture officials within the civil service - the minister could never achieve this on his own.

2 The range: The second key point is that there is a world of difference between 22% and 30%. The KPMG report that the Irish Farmers Journal commissioned shows that, the Climate Change Advisory Council’s own report also shows that. The Taoiseach on Thursday clarified that he was not describing the KPMG report as “scaremongering”, but took issue with the headline in our paper.

We know that we can get close to 20% with current technology, provided that is all adopted on all farms. That is a massive ask.

There are over 130,000 farms and they come in all shapes and sizes, as do the men and women who work them. Expecting a perfect outcome is, frankly, unrealistic. There will be significant slippage.

To maximise the potential for good uptake on farms, an intensifying of the adviser-farmer ratio and relationship may be required. The ASSAP and mini-catchment programmes have shown the effectiveness of hothousing advisory services, and the signpost programme is already demonstrating huge potential.

The need to feed the planet while restoring farming’s relationship with the natural world is one of the two or three pressing needs facing humanity

3 New technologies: However, to go over 20%, we will need new technologies or we will have to reduce the footprint of farming. That is a polite way of saying we may have to cut the national herd.

New technologies are likely. We have previously cited the example of the NASA space programme in the 1960s as a graphic demonstration of the ability to achieve almost impossible goals in relatively short timespans when three ingredients are in place - massive financial resources, the finest scientific minds on the planet bent to a specific task, and a culture that does not punish failure, but encourages pushing the envelope.

We have seen the same dynamic in relation to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and now, it seems, a COVID-19 treatment.

The need to feed the planet while restoring farming’s relationship with the natural world is one of the two or three pressing needs facing humanity, and should be similarly resourced.

4 The need for clarity: Accepting that, there still is a massive difference between 22% and 30%. To put numbers on it, a 22% reduction means cutting 4 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon from farming’s footprint, while a 30% target would require a 6Mt reduction. That is half as much again. There is a fear among some that the bands have been created in part to condition people towards the higher targets that will prove to be the eventual landing zone.

We know the bands will eventually be narrowed to a more specific target, maybe even a specific number. There already is some confusion and mixed messaging around whether that refining of targets will be within months or years. Some clarity here is needed soon.

5 Rising to the challenge: The next point is that now farmers have their target, we need to put our shoulders to the wheel. We’ve done this many times in the short history of our little country, from answering de Valera’s exhortation for “another cow, another sow, another acre under the plough”, through the years during World War II when providing enough food to feed ourselves required a national effort.

The explosion of output following our accession to the EEC was more recently mirrored in the uptake of the opportunity provided by the removal of the shackles of dairy production quotas.

It shows that just like the generations of farmers before us, we are ready and willing to face any obstacle and complete any task while maintaining our network of family farms. This is our task, to decarbonise farming while maintaining the output of food from our farms.