Tim Cullinan of the IFA said the discussion over climate action had become unnecessarily divisive.

Funding needed to match Climate Action Plan aims

Farm organisations have called for financial support for their members to meet the targets set out in the 2023 Climate Action Plan.

The plan for all sectors of the industry was welcomed by Friends of the Earth chief executive, Oisín Coghlan, who described it as a “step in the right direction” and said that emissions must “fall rapidly in 2023”.

“The real test now for the new Taoiseach and his ministers is to deliver at pace,” he said.

“2023 must see a laser-like focus on implementation, implementation, and implementation, not just from ministers and their departments but also from the state agencies they oversee from the CRU to Teagasc.”

Mr Coghlan asserted that Ireland “now has a solid platform for serious climate action, from the law to the carbon budgets to the sectoral emissions ceilings and now this first statutory action plan. What we need now is consistent political leadership and determination to implement this plan and actually reduce emissions in 2023.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher lamented that the plan is long on ambition but short on specific funding strategies.

Mr Kelleher acknowledged there “is no mention” of a 10% cull either on a voluntary or compulsory basis.

“However, the plan is surprisingly short on proposals to fund any climate actions by active farmers. It calls into question whether the government is serious about a coherent strategy across all sectors when the plan actually envisages €119 billion investment but makes no mention of a funding package for farming.”

Mr Kelleher’s first task since being re-elected for one year as president, before handing over to Westmeath’s Sean McNamara, was to meet with the minister to discuss the sectoral targets. He asserts that all sectors “will struggle” to meet the sectoral emissions ceiling targets.

“Substantial investment is required as evidenced by estimates of €42 billion for transport, €36 billion for electricity and €32 billion for buildings. Agriculture barely registers when it comes to expected investment. This flies in the face of all logic when one considers that agriculture is expected to deliver 5.75 Mtons CO2 eq which is not far removed from the electricity target of 7 Mtons CO2 eq and the transport target of 6 Mtons CO2 eq.”

He said that farmers “are willing to do all they can” to improve the sustainability metrics of producing meat and dairy, adding it is time to move away from what a “one-sided attack on livestock farming”.

“The Government must now step up to the plate and deliver the funding necessary to assist farmers deliver on climate, on food security, on energy security and on biodiversity. None of this can happen unless there is a pathway to all farming systems delivering profitability.”

Meanwhile IFA President Tim Cullinan said there’s a lot of further engagement needed to balance emission reductions and sectoral development.

“We are committed to reducing emissions but it cannot be at the expense of farmers’ livelihoods or by reducing output,” he said.

“The debate has become unnecessarily divisive with far too much focus on cattle numbers. The focus must be on reducing emissions, not on reducing cattle numbers,” he said.

“The issue is that the Government could do real damage to our sector to meet a short-term target when technological advancements could well to help us achieve our 2030 targets. The Government needs to invest in R&D to activate these technologies.

“The European Union has already approved a product which significantly reduces methane emissions from livestock. We need to expedite already promising research and how this and other products can be delivered in a grass-based system. There are many other technological advancements which are underway and we need to embrace these,” he contended.

Dairy Industry Ireland highlighted the need for government supports to enable the sector meet target reductions, especially following the Food Vision Dairy report which was presented to the minister in October.

Conor Mulvihill, Director of Dairy Industry Ireland, said “For our part in industry, we are investing in technology and process improvement to meet changing consumer preferences and environmental obligations including water quality, biodiversity, and energy, but clarity and fairness on targets, funding and carbon accounting treatments are a critical start to this journey.”