We need the new Climate Bill to work for farmers, not make them feel guilty for the work they do.

In Blog by Denis Naughten

Real climate action is about encouraging people along the climate journey in a constructive and positive way with the aim of achieving the goal we all want: a long-term sustainable planet for our children and their children.

 

That is why the Regional Independent TDs will table changes to the Climate Bill that would force the Minister of the day, and their climate advisors, to obtain Dáil approval for all carbon budgets.

 

Environmental sustainability and viable rural economies are the opposite sides of the same coin and as a result the green economy has the potential to support the viability of many family farms rather than undermine them. For example, the Smart Farming initiative run with the support of the IFA & the Environmental Protection Agency has shown that livestock farmers can reduce input costs by €5,436 while at the same time reducing carbon emissions by 9%.

 

For me that is what is so frustrating about the so-called green agenda. These are not opposing objectives, but it sadly suits the agenda of some to make it such.

 

I believe in the overall climate target set for 2050. A Climate Bill to achieve that goal in a fair & transparent manner, if structured correctly, will protect farmers from those who wish to use agriculture as a scapegoat.

 

Climate fairness is a must to make the climate transition happen.

 

And we will just get stuck in protests if we don’t make this work for people, particularly those in rural Ireland.

 

Experts say that the cheapest barrel of oil is the one we don’t burn. The same applies to climate. Resource efficiency, whether it’s reducing the amount of electricity to make a microchip or maximising the use of grass in beef production, the smart use of our resources improves profitability and benefits our economy as well as our environment.

 

Grass-based systems on disadvantaged land types in much of Ireland remove carbon from the atmosphere and convert it into human protein on land that is not suitable for tillage crops.

Recently at the Agriculture Committee, Prof. Gerry Boyle of Teagasc and a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council stated that the position of the Advisory Council is that biogenic methane (coming from animals) should be treated differently to other sources of methane.

 

That does not mean that agriculture and farming should have a free pass. The fact is that managing our land use better can take even more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing its harmful effects on the climate and the oceans far quicker than shutting down farming.

 

But in acting quickly we cannot turn our backs on what must be the primary route to that transition and that is the road of a fair transition.

 

As a rural TD I don’t want to undermine the overall objective behind the Climate Bill, but I believe the proposed law is fundamentally flawed in trying to sidestep the people by excluding the requirement of Dáil approval.

 

I am fearful that an unacceptable burden will be placed on agriculture. As currently drafted, this Bill provides a perverse incentive to other government Departments to do little and force farmers to foot the climate bill. So just like our competitors in New Zealand I want a separate emission target for agriculture to ensure it does not become the scapegoat for failures in other Government Departments.

 

I accept that in both instances this is not the intention of TDs across all parties and I’m hoping for their support for measures which would provide democratic oversight to fair, balanced and achievable targets for each sector of society.

Our amendments do just 3 things:

  1. Biogenic methane, that produced from agriculture, would be accounted for separately due to its distinct characteristics as part of the overall carbon cycle. The Climate Change Advisory Council has held a position that there should be a separate target for biogenic methane.
  2. Carbon budgets will have to be presented and approved by the Dáil just like a financial budget, the National Planning Framework or like the National Marine Planning Framework was. This goal was previously espoused by the Green Party
  3. Directions issued by the Minister to Councils must be presented and approved by the Oireachtas, just like planning regulations were recently.

 

The Regional Independent TDs are taking a responsible approach to what is an important piece of legislation for our planet and our environment, but we fundamentally believe these amendments must be implemented in consultation with people and instead of being dictated.