A 24-25% cut in the agricultural sector by 2030 could be a possible compromise to get a deal – The Irish Times

Leaders of the coalition parties and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue are due to meet on Monday to try to break the impasse over how much carbon cuts to seek in the agricultural sector. Prior to the meeting, high-level sources indicated that a 24-25% reduction by 2030 could be a possible compromise.

Discussions between ministers and officials over the past week have failed to reach agreement on the point between 22 and 30%, the level to which greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector should be reduced by the end of the decade.

This has delayed the announcement of a government-wide plan for emission reduction caps to be sought in various sectors.

Coalition sources said they would try to reach an agreement on Monday at a meeting of the Cabinet committee on climate change, which is likely to be attended by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, the leader of the Green Party and minister for Environment Eamon Ryan, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and Mr. McConalogue and his senior officials.

Mr Ryan and his party are pushing for a deeper cut, closer to 28 per cent, while Mr McConalogue, aware of strong opposition from farmers as well as backbenchers from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, favors a reduction closer to the lower limit.

Articles in the Sunday newspapers suggested starkly different versions of what was being asked for, with government sources on different sides of the debate accusing each other of leaking in order to influence the final deal.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are careful not to alienate farmers by agreeing on a figure that is too far from the 22% accepted by farmers’ organisations.

However, Mr Ryan is under pressure from his party and climate and environment campaigners to secure significant cuts from agriculture, the sector which is the biggest source of greenhouse gases in Ireland.

Securing a pathway to cut Ireland’s carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and enshrining the process in law is central to the Green Party’s justification for being in government. Some climate experts have warned that if the agricultural target is set too low, expected reductions in other sectors will be so high as to be unachievable.

Monday’s meeting will be followed by the last Cabinet meeting before the August recess on Wednesday. If an agreement cannot be reached in the next few days, the matter will be postponed until September, which will further delay the process of implementing sectoral emissions caps.

The government plan will set caps for each sector which ministers will then be responsible for implementing. The target for the transport sector should be set at 50% reduction, while power generation should reduce its emissions by 70-80%, mainly through switching to renewable energy.

Senior government officials again sought to focus on the position of Sinn Féin, the main opposition party, which declined to say what level of farm emissions cuts it favours.

Sinn Féin said it agreed with the target of a 50% reduction by 2030, but opposed individual climate measures such as a carbon tax. The party’s finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, said on Sunday the targets should be “achievable” and again declined to say what his party thought the agriculture figure should be. He said the party did not have enough information on which to base a decision.

Lana T. Arthur