Ireland must move beyond the divisive nature of the climate debate if progress is to be made on achieving overall carbon reduction targets, according to the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).
IFA deputy president Brian Rushe said that the pitting of one sector of the economy versus another “might make good television, but it doesn’t bring the issue on”.
Rushe was responding to questions from members of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action on Thursday in relation to the challenges facing agriculture if it is to reach its carbon reduction targets.
The Kildare dairy farmer said Irish farmers need to be brought on a journey, which enables them to make informed choices on climate policy which protects the family farm if carbon emission reduction targets are to be achieved.
He said farmers, who are committed to playing their part in reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, must be included in shaping such climate policy.
He described how Government must include farmers “at the table” in all decision making in this regard and that a “path forward” which does not threaten farming livelihoods must be clearly demonstrated.
Rushe described three challenges facing agriculture in the climate debate.
He said that the sector, and those who view the sector, must analyse the “three legs of the stool” of sustainability at the same time. He said sustainability must be environmental, economic and social.
He said a challenge remains where farmers have to be given the opportunity to “feel engaged in the process [of addressing emissions]”.
Finally, he said there must be a “policy allowing farmers to exploit renewable energy opportunities”.
Rushe conceded that the reduction target set for agriculture of 22% to 30% by 2030 presents “enormous challenges” for the sector.
He said: “This sector is in the spotlight with regard to reaching climate change goals. Irish farmers recognise the need for change and are committed to playing their part. However, it is crucial that farmers are supported to transition towards new technologies, sustainable and innovative practices.
“The target set for agriculture represents an emissions reduction of between 5 and 7 million tonnes CO2 (Mt CO2).
“Farmers recognise the need to adapt to reach climate change objectives. However, support must be given in order to viably operate for the ever-higher standards of sustainability.”
He said the Government commitment to reduce Ireland’s GHG emissions by 51% by 2030 has implications for all parts of the Irish economy.
“For the agricultural sector, it would require full adoption of the various measures set out in the climate action plan, which is highly challenging within the timeframe provided.”