Agriculture must not be allowed to make a mockery of climate law in sectoral targets debate

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Dáil to hold annual debate on climate action as inter-departmental negotiations on sectoral targets heat up in advance of July deadline

Friends of the Earth has set out four key questions it says Ministers have to answer on sectoral climate targets in advance of annual set-piece Dáil debate on climate action on Wednesday. The Government has said it will finalise the sectoral pollution targets for electricity, transport, buildings, industry and agriculture before the Dáil breaks for the summer in July. The overall national pollution limits for the decade to 2030 were passed by the Dáil in April.

While the arithmetic is clear that only if every sector does the upper end of the indicative ranges published last November will we meet the overall 51% target in the climate law, recent media reports suggest that the Minister for Agriculture is under intense pressure from the farming lobby not to agree to pollution cuts of more than 22%. 

In a briefing [1] published in advance of the Dáil debate Friends of the Earth has set out four questions for ministers to answer:

  1. Will the sectoral ceilings add up to no more than the national carbon budget passed by the Dáil?
  2. Will the sectoral ceilings align with Ireland’s 51% emissions reduction target for 2030?
  3. Will every sector of the economy do its fair share to reduce emissions or are other sectors being penalised for Agriculture dragging its feet?
  4. Will Government ensure that any “contingency fund” of unallocated emissions budget is only used for sectors that are doing everything possible to cut emissions?

Oisín Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Chief Executive said:

“Agri-business lobbyists must not be allowed to hold Ireland’s climate targets to ransom again. Scientific report after scientific report has made it clear that it’s ‘now or never’ on climate action and every sector will have to do its fair share.

“There are reports ministers are considering sectoral ceilings that add up to more than the overall national emissions budget to satisfy the demands of the farm lobby to avoid serious action. That would make a mockery of the climate law passed less than a year ago and drive a coach and horses through our legally binding 2030 targets.

“It would be like the Minister for Finance announcing on Budget Day that he had decided to allow Departments spend more than the overall budget because he hadn’t been able to get line ministers to agree to spending limits. Such ‘leprauchan economics’ would leave the Government’s credibility on climate action in tatters just as it would on the public finances.

“The three coalition leaders jointly launched the climate Bill a year ago and jointly launched the the Climate Action Plan last November. Now they must ensure that all ministers accept their fair share of climate action.  There can’t be any hold outs.

“Agriculture has already been given special consideration, with the least ambitious targets of any sector. It now seems that while every other Department has already agreed to do the upper end of its reduction range Agriculture is dragging its heels. But if Agriculture was allowed to cut its pollution by just 22%, the rest of the economy and society would have to cut our emissions by 66%, three times that, and that is neither fair nor feasible.”

The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition wrote to Minister Eamon Ryan last month outlining these four questions but has yet to receive a response.


1. The full briefing is available online here.

2. A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions, measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent, that may be emitted by a country, region, etc. during a specific time period. Ireland’s first carbon budget programme, comprising three 5-year economy-wide carbon budgets, was approved by the Government on 22 February 2022. The budgets were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 24 February. The carbon budgets were approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas (the Dáil and Seanad) in April 2022.’ See: See also: The sectoral ceilings will divide Ireland’s national ‘carbon budgets’ between the following sectors of the Irish economy: electricity, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, and land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF). They will set the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted from each of the sectors during the 5-year carbon budgets (2021-2025, 2026-2030).

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