With policy clarity and support, farmers can help to deliver on Ireland’s renewable and climate targets, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment has heard.
Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy told the meeting that biomass, the bio-economy, farm-scale and community-based renewable projects, and afforestation all provide tangible ways in which farmers can support the delivery of Ireland’s renewable and climate targets.
“Ireland has a responsibility to act to address climate change, and within this context, agriculture has an important role to play – while respecting the need to safeguard food production,” Mr Healy said.
He said Irish farmers are playing their part but that farming can do more, and he renewed his call for a climate activation programme for the sector to be put in place. Mr Healy said funding for the programme could be diverted from Ireland’s potential compliance bill of up to €610m for breaching 2020 renewable-energy and emissions targets.
A climate-activation programme proposed by IFA includes the following measures:
- The re-opening of the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 65,000 tonnes each year;
- A defined farm-based and community electricity tariff for renewable projects, with a specific export tariff for roof mounted projects;
- The scaling up of on-farm emission reduction programmes, such as Smart Farming, Origin Green, and the Carbon Navigator;
- The development of a national network of producer organisations to support the mobilisation of the private forest resource.
Mr Healy said that reductions achieved through natural carbon sinks, such as forests and permanent pastures, must be included in the overall measurement of the contribution of the agriculture sector to emission reductions.
The IFA has welcomed the Renewable Heat Support Scheme to be introduced this year, but Mr Healy said this must be properly funded and embedded in the local economy to create new revenue streams for farmers and valuable new job and business opportunities in rural areas.