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Climate Action Plan 2021 launched

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2021 was launched earlier this week – the Plan outlines a pathway to reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 51% in 203

Referring to the Plan, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said: “This is the most ambitious Climate Action Plan ever produced and it places farmers at the very centre. The targets for agriculture will help make Irish farms more carbon efficient and build a more resilient agri-food sector. Farmers know the land better than anyone and are best placed to meet our climate ambitions. This plan sets ambitious climate mitigation targets for farming, but also recognises the special position of the sector in producing high quality food and supporting a balanced regional economy.

Central to all of this is ensuring we have a strong and vibrant sector and that farm incomes are protected. That is why I have provided almost €10 billion in support for the new CAP Strategic Plan in the period from 2023 - 2027. We are facing into a period of transformation in our great sector and with the right support our farmers can lead this change.”

This Plan also sets a separate target for the land-use sector, acknowledging the role that our forests and land can play in carbon removals but also recognising that land can be a source of emissions.

Minister of State Pippa Hackett said: “Carbon sequestration is one of a range of important services being provided by sustainably managed forests. This Climate Action Plan recognises the importance of forests and timber, and the positive impact they make in sequestering and storing carbon. Through Project Woodland we are engaging with citizens to build a new vision for the forestry sector that will help to shape a National Forestry Strategy. This will be finalised in the first quarter of 2022. We are also reviewing the regulatory framework with a view to streamlining our licencing system and making it more efficient. We are bringing forward legislation to make it easier for farmers to undertake small scale planting of native trees without the need for a licence. That will bring huge biodiversity benefits and we will, also of course, continue to provide strong financial support for the

sector. I would encourage all farmers to seriously consider forestry as part of their plans on their farms in the years ahead.

In addition, our soils are a potentially important carbon pool in the Irish landscape. Reducing emissions through reduced management intensity of our peat soils has the potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions from these soils and is a means to positively contributing to our climate change ambition. The Programme for Government also commits to ambitious targets for increasing the area farmed organically, and we are backing that up with €256 million in financial support in the new CAP Strategic Plan to help make that happen.”

Meanwhile, IFA President Tim Cullinan said the emissions ceiling for agriculture announced will be extremely challenging and could have a profound impact on the rural economy. “The Government has fixed these targets without any proper assessment of the implications for individual farmers, the rural economy or food production,” he said. “Teagasc data shows that only a third of Irish farmers are economically viable. With rising energy and transport costs, the economic viability of farms and rural businesses are being undermined. Farmers cannot do more for the environment and invest in emissions mitigation measures when their incomes are under such pressure,” he said. Tim Cullinan said we cannot approach climate policy with a silo mentality. Carbon leakage, food security and farmers’ livelihoods must be fully integrated into the plan. “The Government must now engage in meaningful negotiation with elected farmer leaders to make a plan for the sector that can contribute to emissions reduction, but which does not impact on farmer’s livelihoods. In addition, proper funding must be in place to help farmers implement climate action measures. The frustration for farmers is that they know that if less food is produced in Ireland, it will be produced elsewhere, with a higher carbon footprint. The world’s population is growing and will likely increase from 7.5 billion today to 10 billion by 2050. More food will be needed, not less.”