Thursday, July 28, 2022

By Michelle Devane and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Talks are expected to resume on Thursday between the three Coalition leaders on emission reduction targets for the agriculture sector.

It is understood agreement may be reached in the coming days.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan held lengthy discussions late into Wednesday night on how to assign emission reduction targets across key sectors of the economy, in particular the agriculture sector.

It comes after the Government failed on Wednesday to come to an agreement on the matter during the last scheduled Cabinet meeting before the summer recess.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan 2021 set out a 22-30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions target for the agriculture sector, as part of Ireland’s aim to reduce its total emissions by 51 per cent by 2030.

Some backbench TDs have said the emissions’ ceiling should be set on the lower end of that range, with climate scientists and some opposition parties calling for a reduction on the higher end.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Mr Ryan said he was “still hopeful” a deal could be reached.

Cabinet meeting – Dublin
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said he is hopeful agreement can be reached on Wednesday (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Environment Minister told RTE News: “We need momentum. We need to create opportunity for Irish farmers and make sure they get a good income out of whatever changes we make.

“I’m still hopeful and we’re working hard to get there.”

Speaking to reporters after he left the meeting, he would not comment on Green Senator Pauline O’Reilly’s claim on RTE Radio that the Green Party could walk from government if a 22 per cent or 23 per cent reduction in emissions was set for the agriculture sector.

“I don’t think that the Green Party can put up with that kind of a low figure,” she said.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue was seen giving a thumbs up and smiling to the media as he left Dublin Castle.

Following Cabinet, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee told RTE Radio that “this is not a straightforward process”.

“Negotiations are ongoing and no we haven’t reached an agreement yet. Whether we will reach it today or this week, I don’t know.”

She said that the delay was caused by the government trying to “get the right agreement here” and that it was not just about agriculture.

“[It’s] that we understand what it is we’re agreeing to, that whatever we agree to is realistic, that it’s ambitious, because everybody needs to be ambitious here.”

“But that there is full agreement, not just on all parts of the three government parties, but that we have the support and the buy-in of everybody who is involved in reaching the overall targets,” Ms McEntee said.

Speaking before the Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach said it was not easy to reach an agreement but the Government was “determined to get this resolved”.

Micheal Martin
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Government is ‘determined’ to reach agreement on emissions cuts (PA)

He said: “What the difficulties reflect in reaching an agreement, they reflect the significance of the challenges. I think it’s important that we get a resolution, but that we do it in a way that facilitates delivery down the road and real momentum in relation to climate change.”

Mr Martin added that part of the challenge with agriculture is in acknowledging the greater part it will play in the energy sector in the future and to recognise the importance of food production.

Ireland has legally committed to halving its carbon emissions by 2030 and to achieving net-zero by 2050.

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