Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Reduction of Carbon Emissions of 51% by 2030: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome our guests and thank them for their presentations. Most of my questions are for Mr. Keane and Macra na Feirme. It is great to hear about the different sciences and the advances in sciences in terms of reductions in emissions. I would like to hear more about that at the end of our discussion.

I note Macra na Feirme urged a "No" vote on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill. I want to pick up on a few points that were made in urging that "No" vote. Would Mr. Keane and Macra na Feirme acknowledge farming and agriculture get special treatment in that Bill, not only with the definition of the special characteristics of biogenic methane but in acknowledging the special socioeconomic benefits of agriculture? No other sector gets such treatment in the Bill. Many people were urging for a split budget, as they have in New Zealand but is the definition of biogenic methane and the acknowledgement of the important role of agriculture not essentially almost acting as a split budget? It is essentially saying that potentially, agriculture will do the least heavy lifting, acknowledging biogenic methane and the socioeconomic importance of agriculture, which no other sector gets. Will Mr. Keane comment on that and does he accept that?

We have heard from Macra na Feirme and other groups that this Bill would decimate farming and rural Ireland. Much of that related to the fact that carbon sequestration and carbon capture would not be accounted for in carbon budgeting. Will Mr. Keane accept that is not the case and that the definition of a climate neutral economy does include sinks and sources? Therefore, carbon sequestration and carbon capture will be included in the accounting. It was unfair of many commentators to suggest it would not be when the Bill explicitly defines a climate neutral economy. The same applies to carbon leakage, which is also defined in the Bill.

They were a couple of comments on some of the narrative around the climate action Bill and how it would damage farming when in fact, I believe agriculture received a quite specific mention in the Bill that would indicate it probably will do the least of the heavy lifting, compared to energy or electricity, which probably will do the heaviest of the lifting.

I agree 100% that Irish farmers produce the best quality product. Report after report suggests that but we can all testify that Irish produce, whether it is beef, milk, dairy or cheese, is the best. Mr. Keane said in his statement we were also the best in terms of biodiversity. Can he elaborate on that or get a source? I note that Dr. Moore stated that all the biodiversity indicators are going in the wrong direction. There is a contradiction there and perhaps both witnesses will be able to comment on that point.

With regard to the BRIDE valley scheme Dr. Moore mentioned, those results-based schemes are the future. The quality, outcome and income for farmers still remains viable but farms are greatly improved in terms of biodiversity results, whether it is wetlands, hedgerows, mixed swards or mixed species. They are seeing the results and increase on farms, especially in bird life. The results are improving after only a few years. I attended many of the farmers' protests last week. Farmers are on board for those types of schemes, as long as they get properly awarded. I am 100% behind those types of schemes which will not impact output but will improve biodiversity, carbon sinks and sequestration. Significant work is being done by Teagasc on hedgerows, in particular, being sources of carbon capture, and that is the way forward.

Those are my questions and I appreciate the witnesses for coming in.


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