Demanding farmers to set aside a quarter of their land for environment measures is a crude way to go about climate action, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council John Fitzgerald has said.

The comments came during a An Fóram Uisce webinar discussing a recently published report on ‘optimising water quality returns from the reform of the CAP’.

Fitzgerald said that farmers must be paid for their carbon sequestration measures and the mitigation of pollution to waterways.

Easy compliance

Fitzgerald said the paper is useful is signifying changes required in developing the next CAP, but doesn’t fully address the requirement to incentivise change which will ultimately benefit farmers and the environment alike.

“Taxes and subisidies work well where pollution has same effects regardless of where it occurs, such as methane. But when it comes to pollutants that vary across the environment such as nitrates, regulation preforms better.

“In the next CAP, we need schemes that farmers find easy to comply with. For example, if we ask farmers to grow more trees, then they will need a market to sell this product.”

Public money

Report author and director of research at University of Bath Dr Charles Larkin suggested that CAP subsidy doesn’t adhere to the principles of public money for public goods.

“Farm income needs to be supported to make the system sustainable. The question that needs to be addressed is the wider society benefiting equally from the money subsidised to agriculture.

“Ireland can longer afford rural Ireland as a result of its dependency on the agriculture sector.”

Also speaking at the webinar was professor of European agricultural policy at Trinity College Dublin Alan Matthews, who also suggested the redesign of payments for effective use out of public money for environmental protection.

“In future, there will be greater cross compliance and obligations to be eligible for CAP payments. There’s potential to make more use of pillar one and even higher payment for practices that improve the environment.

“The outcomes will be dependent on how ambitious will the Irish Government be when setting targets, with room to be more ambitious in respect of environment and climate objectives.”

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