Thursday, 12 May 2022
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Security: Statements
Verona Murphy (Wexford, Independent)
The first issue I want to raise, which I am sure has already been raised, is that in the farming section of the Irish Independenta couple of days ago it was highlighted that the methane emissions from dairy cows are probably being overestimated. Similar reports appeared at the end of 2021 and in the summer of 2021 in the Irish Farmers' Journal. The study quoted in the Irish Farmers' Journalin 2021 claimed that methane emissions from dairy cows are approximately 30% less than the estimated figures used by national organisations. This should be ringing major alarm bells for anyone who is blindly supporting the Government’s approach to climate action. I did not support the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2022 for a number of reasons but this is just another indication to me that the Government’s climate action policies are relying on questionable data. How many other climate-related areas have misleading or false numbers associated with emissions that have not been accepted as true by Government agencies or even by Ministers?
We are happy to tax people into oblivion supposedly to fund climate action measures, possibly based on incorrect figures. We have no balanced debate as the State broadcaster, RTÉ, has explicitly committed to being biased on the issue, having signed up as part of the climate change activist group. The voices of experts who disagree with the approach being taken and the information being provided are routinely ignored in the debate. There is no real debate at all; it is just constant and one-sided activism. Only a couple of weeks ago a Fianna Fáil Senator suggested the following in the Seanad:
If, however, we have a referendum in the future on tough measures to deal with climate change, for example, I do not believe it would be appropriate that our national broadcaster should be giving 50% of the space in such debates to climate sceptics.
Censorship of fair debate seems to be coming a trend within Fianna Fáil. Such a concerning suggestion just about sums up the Government's approach to climate change; attempting to curtail debate and crush dissent, even within its own ranks. There seems to be a small bit of dissent, however, within the Government parties at some of the harebrained ideas being proposed and floated around, the turf issue being the most recent example. It seems to have missed the attention of everybody that the turf ban would not apply to communities of fewer than 500 people. Therefore we must not have a climate crisis in communities of fewer than 500 people.
Some nine out of the 12 Green Party Deputies represent urban constituencies. While the other three rely significantly on urban votes there is no significant demand for the Green Party agenda in rural Ireland. Yet the policies promoted by the urban-centric Green Party do not seek to address the environmental problems in city areas. Instead they seem just to target rural areas. I am blue in the face from highlighting the folly of expanding Dublin Port, for instance, and I have called numerous times for the Port Tunnel barrier to be removed to reduce emissions at what is the most problematic area, according to the EPA, and those issues are ignored. Instead we have the sacred cow of carbon tax being protected at all costs and increased again at a time when inflation in the cost of living is hurting so many people, particularly in rural Ireland. Many farmers across the country have different decisions to make. With the cost of fertiliser continuing to pose major problems for farmers trying to keep their heads above water, there are a number of other issues which are also of great concern to the farming sector. All types of farmers are under severe pressure with the rise in input and related costs.
I wish to highlight again that as a nation we are consistently falling way behind on our tree planting targets, as the Minister mentioned himself. The years 2020 and 2021 were the worst for 70 years in the number of trees planted. The benefits of planting trees from an environmental point of view would far outweigh the benefits of increasing the carbon tax. There is great urgency and willingness among Government Members to increase carbon taxes every year up until 2030 but it does not appear there is any great urgency or willingness to achieve meaningful solutions such as planting more trees. The Minister commented on the problems we had in 2019 and I presume he is referring to the judicial review. The reason we had that successful judicial review is that the Government acted unlawfully. I would rather that the Government would concentrate on the cause of the judicial review than attack those who took it.