Emissions targets for agriculture sector must reflect urgency, say climate groups – The Irish Times

Higher emissions targets for agriculture are not only crucial for our climate, but also for water and air quality, biodiversity and food security, say three environmental NGOs.

“Almost no consideration is being given to water pollution, air pollution, biodiversity loss and food security issues associated with agricultural intensification in the ongoing deliberations on agricultural caps. ‘sectoral emissions for the agricultural sector’, Environmental Pillar, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and Sustainable Water Network (Swan) said.

In a joint statement, the three groups said that “a 22% target for agriculture is neither fair nor achievable, as it would mean a 68% reduction in emissions in the rest of society. Moreover, it will block agricultural intensification and the associated negative impacts on water, air, nature and food security.

They called on the government “to help farmers move away from intensive livestock farming and restore the balance through farm diversification and socially and environmentally friendly farming practices.”

Sinead O’Brien of Swan, a network of 25 national and local environmental groups, pointed out that “farming is by far the biggest polluter of our water. While we are rightly disgusted by the dumping of raw and poorly treated sewage into our waters, the truth is that agricultural runoff causes much more damage: it is responsible for degrading five times as many water bodies . This represents a whopping thousand polluted waters, up 29% over the past four years.

She noted that “rising nitrate and phosphate levels in our rivers, estuaries and coasts are clearly linked to the expansion of dairy products, which are choking our rivers and bays with algal blooms and depriving species freshwater species such as salmon and dragonflies from a healthy and much needed freshwater habitat.”

Dr. Elaine McGoff of Environmental Pillar, which represents more than 30 independent national environmental NGOs, said nationwide that “safe levels for ammonia air pollution are exceeded. The agricultural sector accounts for almost all ammonia emissions in Ireland, and the growth in emissions is directly linked to the number of cattle and the increased use of fertilizers. Ammonia pollution can kill sensitive plants and habitats and harm human health and should not be ignored in the debate over the future of Irish agriculture.

Dr Bríd Walsh of Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of civil society organisations, said that currently “the agricultural sector contributes 37.5% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions” and that ” the high agricultural emissions from our livestock sector are a key factor in Ireland having the third highest per capita emissions in the EU.

Urgently, she called for farmers to be “incentivized and supported to protect biodiversity and water quality, and make the transition to socially and environmentally responsible farming practices such as agroecology, agriculture organic and agroforestry. This is crucial for long-term food security, food sovereignty and the overall sustainability of our food system.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil TD said the agricultural sector did not want “a Brexit scenario” that would see lengthy negotiations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

West Cork TD Christopher O’Sullivan said the farming sector wants to act now and ‘kicking the road is not going to help’.

“Everyone wants certainty. They don’t want the Brexit scenario here, they don’t want something long and drawn out,’ he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

Mr O’Sullivan said he thought it would be a disaster to push back a decision on emissions targets until September.

“It would be a disaster for two reasons: one, we don’t have time to act on climate change…we need to act now. Hitting the can on the road isn’t going to help.

“Secondly, and just as important to me… when we talk about farming in West Cork, it’s not about the big expansive farm that some call a big dairy. Family farms here number between 90 and 100 or maybe 150 cows and these farmers are worried, they’re anxious, they’re worried about what the limits might mean for them in the future and they want an answer now,” he said.

“Extending this isn’t going to help, it’s just going to increase things, it’s going to increase the finger pointing that’s going on on the agricultural sector, which I think is very unfair.”

Mr O’Sullivan hopes a target can be agreed today.

When asked what target level for agriculture Fianna Fáil would like to see, he replied that it would not be the 30% reduction in emissions advocated by the Greens.

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“We believe that figure would have a huge detrimental impact on what is a really important industry for rural Ireland. At the same time, we do not subscribe to the policy of the rural independents or Sinn Féin where they have no opinion on this.

“Whatever happens, it will be a huge challenge. In other sectors such as transport, there are alternatives … unfortunately in agriculture, because the technology is not there at the moment, everything that exceeds 30% will lead to job losses, so we need to embrace the technology,” said O’Sullivan.

“We need to take climate action seriously.”

Officials and ministers spent much of Wednesday negotiating on farm emissions cuts after late-night talks on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement. Officials said negotiations are continuing.

After the pessimism earlier in the week, multiple sources involved in the talks reported that progress was being made and the sides were getting closer. However, they warned that nothing had been definitively agreed and that a deal was unlikely to be completed before Thursday.

The government said on Wednesday evening that it had failed to implement more than half of its climate action plan measures in the second quarter of the year as ministers again failed to deliver. to agree on an emissions reduction target for the agricultural sector.

A progress report on the climate action plan, noted at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, revealed that only 45% of the 162 specific measures to be taken in April, May and June have actually been implemented .

Lana T. Arthur