Taoiseach urged to convene Coalition party leaders to agree climate targets – “Serious concern” as Agriculture only sector holding out for easier targets

Friends of the Earth has urged the Taoiseach to convene the Coalition party leaders to break the deadlock over agricultural pollution. The environmental campaigning organisation has written to the Taoiseach [1] expressing “serious concern” that the Government missed its own deadline this week to agree binding “sectoral emissions ceilings” for industry, transport, electricity, buildings and agriculture, under the climate law passed a year ago this week.

The delay came after media reports [2] that Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue was holding out for cuts at the lowest end of the proposed range of 22% to 30%, in his discussions with Minister for Environment and Climate, Eamon Ryan. Other sectors have already agreed to cuts of between 40 and 80%. The letter calls on the Taoiseach “to ensure that all sectors step up and an overall outcome that is robust and plausible is reached speedily.”

Taoiseach urged to convene Coalition party leaders to agree climate targets - "Serious concern" as Agriculture only sector holding out for easier targetsCommenting, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, Oisín Coghlan, said:

“This is not a simple deadlock between two line ministers. This is like Minister McConalogue holding up the Budget in September by insisting he wants to spend more money than Michael McGrath can give him.

“The numbers have to add up. We have known since the target ranges were published last November that every sector would have to cut their polluting emissions at the upper end of the range in in order to achieve the overall 51% reduction enshrined in the climate law.

“Every other sector has already agreed to cut emissions at the top of the range. Only agriculture is holding out for the bottom of the range.

“Agriculture has already been given ‘special consideration’. Its proposed cut of 30% is only half the 60% the rest of the economy and society has to do.

“If the Government makes further concessions to agriculture, who is going to explain to motorists, hauliers, householders and other businesses that they have to make even more expensive cuts?

Research by UCC Professor Hannah Daly [3] has shown that if Agriculture was allowed to cut at 22% then on top of all the existing measures in other sectors we would need to take one quarter of all cars off the road by 2030, or all vans, or close cement factories, or bring another quarter of all houses to zero pollution, or every household would face an extra €5,000 in costs to make up for the extra pollution that agriculture wants to still be able to emit.

“Putting such an extra burden on commuters, householders and other business so that agriculture can avoid making the big changes we all have to make is neither fair nor feasible

The letter to the Taoiseach calling on him to convene the Coalition party leaders to fulfil the government’s climate commitments ends as follows:

“Your government has made real strides over the last couple of years to show Ireland is gearing up to take serious climate action. This decision is the litmus of that commitment. You have spoken convincingly recently of the need to rise to the climate challenge. The decision on the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings will be a significant part of your legacy as Taoiseach. We urge you to ensure they are fair to all sectors and send a clear signal to every sector that the race to a cleaner, safer future starts now.”

references:

  1. Friends of the Earth’s letter to the Taoiseach about the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings is online here: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/letter_to_taoiseach_on_sectoral_emissions_ceilings_2022-0712.pdf
  2. Media reports on the delay in agreeing the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings:
    https://www.rte.ie/news/2022/0709/1309361-emissions-targets/
    https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/coalition-split-over-eco-clampdown-on-farmers-ahead-of-no-confidence-vote-41832268.html
    https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/2022/07/10/dairys-climate-debate-position-undermined-by-water-quality-decline/
  3. Professor Hannah Daly’s analysis of what it would mean for other sectors if Agriculture only cut by 22% and not the proposed 30% is summarised here: https://twitter.com/HannahEDaly/status/1544255885723181056?s=20&t=b01GLZDgS_7F_pP7UASfiQ

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