Ireland’s first-ever carbon budgets were approved by the Dáil in early April, setting limits on five-year totals of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 2021 to 2025, and for 2026 to 2030. The sectoral allocations for these carbon budgets remain undecided and contested, but are likely to be announced in the coming days.

Equity is a critical element of our carbon budgets, with all sectors pulling their weight. Despite that, agriculture has been the biggest stumbling block in reaching consensus on the sectoral budgets.  Agriculture was already given a very significant concession in that the maximum reduction they could be assigned under the sectoral budgets is 30%, with all other sectors having to do double that. Yet, many are now arguing that further concessions should be granted, and agriculture should be assigned the lowest possible emissions reduction target, equating to just 22%.  However, any failure to sufficiently reduce emissions from agriculture, forestry and land use emissions will necessitate much greater and more rapid reductions in energy emissions (from heating, transport and electricity generation) than what is already proposed. 

Recent analysis indicates that a 22% GHG reduction for agriculture would mean energy-related emissions would have to reduce by 68%, up from 60%, thereby costing each household approximately €5000 by 2030, on top of the already substantial action needed to even meet a 60% GHG reduction in energy.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer for An Taisce said

“Given the unprecedented rate of energy poverty in Ireland, foisting such an additional financial burden on any sector, and on society as a whole, so agriculture can get special treatment is inequitable and unjust”

“Whatever the outcome, if there is one big winner that likely means a lot of losers in terms of share of the finite budget.”

“Cutting agricultural methane substantially by 2030 is especially critical if we want to limit warming in the short to medium term, but the radical changes that agriculture must undergo will require careful and rapid implementation of a ‘just transition', with clear supports and structures in place to assist farmers with that transition. 

But while the main focus at the moment is on agriculture, it’s vital that the public knows that even with radical changes in agriculture, energy demand reduction, in transport particularly, will be important to enable a less costly transition. This transition is going to impact on every single one of us, there’s no way around that”

The challenge to meet Ireland’s GHG reductions obligations is immense, but we must recognise how much we, as a rich country, have already contributed to global warming, and  our immediate responsibility to meet this challenge. All sectors must do their fair share - there is no room for exceptionalism.