Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 3 June 2021
Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage
I will respond briefly to the contribution from Deputy Bruton and to the points made by Deputy Naughten. There will be sectoral targets for agriculture and land use, which will be different from the targets for other sectors and probably less onerous. However, the agricultural sector has to play its part too. I reassure Deputy Bruton that it will be necessary to account for sinks as well as sources. The Bill does that, and the definition concerning a removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere sets out that clearly. It includes the use of natural or technological solutions, nature-based solutions being centre stage in that regard.
My key point is that we must increase incomes and reduce emissions. Removal of greenhouse gases, in form of those sinks, could, should and will be the source of potential income for farmers, foresters and those involved in land use and reclamation management etc.. Critically, this should be a turning point for the better for agriculture. We want to redirect some of the income currently going to the processing and retailing side of agriculture to pay for nature-based solutions and the environmental services that will be provided by farmers. That is why many farmers are rowing in behind what we are seeking to do. That income must go up. We must have an Origin Green brand that is truly green in origin, in respect of protecting nature as well as stopping emissions.
It can also increase income in many different ways. As well as pasture-based family farming, we can also look at more secure incomes by having a diversity of income streams being derived from farming. Last, but not least, this aspect concerns not just methane but also elements such as nitrous oxides, in addition to greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, from agriculture itself. There is also potential to derive income from the generation of energy on farms. Farm incomes could also be raised by reducing the use of nitrogen and nitrous oxide fertilisers. This endeavour, therefore, is not just focused on methane. It is about a variety of approaches, all of them centred on increasing income and getting a new generation of young farmers into the sector as emissions are cut. I am afraid I cannot support the amendment but I think we agree on the principle that farming must play its part and, critically, the old narrative of the environment versus agriculture must end. We work together.