Thursday, 15 July 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Climate Action Plan
9. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the increase in budget his Department will receive in 2021 to deal with the cost of implementing the Climate Action Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37230/21]
On the climate action plan and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 that is going through the House at the moment, can the Minister inform us what ring-fenced budget he has to assist farming and all of the works they will have to carry out in order to start to comply with climate action, where that budget is coming from and is it separate from what is there at the moment?
The first all-of-Government Climate Action Plan 2019 established sectoral emissions reduction targets for the first time. The target for agriculture was to reduce emissions by 10% to 15% by 2030. The climate action plan 2021 is currently being developed. This plan is seen as the key mechanism to deliver on the programme for Government commitment of a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 2030.
All sectors will need to contribute to this step-up of ambition, including agriculture. The climate action plan is scheduled to be finalised in the coming weeks and preparations are running in parallel with the Climate Change Advisory Council deliberations on carbon budgets.
Annual revisions to the climate action plan will focus on the near and medium-term perspectives, be consistent with the adopted carbon budget programme and provide a roadmap of actions, including sectoral actions that are needed to comply with the carbon budgets and sectoral emission ceilings. To bridge the gap between the Climate Action Plan 2019 and the new climate action plan 2021, the Interim Climate Actions 2021 was prepared following a consultation process across Government Departments and bodies. This was published in February 2021 with over a total of 250 measures, of which 50 are led by the Department and its agencies.
The funding of the 2021 climate action plan will be determined based on the final agreement on the targets for the agriculture sector. It is clear that the targets will be challenging on the sector and that a multifaceted approach will be required.
For my part, I secured additional funding of €79 million in the 2021 budget to support agriculture. I also maintained supports to the sector under the rural development programme continuing all the schemes in the transitional period in 2021. This is the first time that multi-annual contracts for GLAS and organics were continued in the transitional period.
In addition, the CAP strategic plan funding will be aligned to support the achievement of the targets.
It is clear, however, that the CAP funding alone would not necessarily be sufficient to address the level of transformation we require.
There is a lot in what the Minister has said, but the nub of the issue, or the question, is that we now face, as the Minister said, huge challenges in achieving the targets we have set out in the climate action Bill. Farmers want to be part of it. We have a huge amount of work to be done. We have a huge amount of research to be done as to how we will reach our targets. Underlining all that is the fact that there is a serious need to set out a separate, ring-fenced budget to make sure the farming communities are supported in achieving what we want to achieve nationally for climate action. I urge the Minister to make sure further funding is made available. While we are putting in place all these action plans and while a huge amount of paperwork is being thrown around the place, the fear is that, at the end of the day, the farmer will have to pay for a lot of it.
The point Deputy Canney makes is a good one in that while there will be increased ambition and asks made of farmers, it is important that this is done in a partnership approach and, in particular, that farmers are paid for the work and actions they are being offered to participate in. That has to be central to how we approach this. It will be an important part of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, strategic plan. We also have the commitment in the programme for Government for carbon tax funding to be allocated to the agriculture sector to support the new flagship agri-environment scheme from 2023 onwards. That is really important. A central theme running through how we approach this is that where there is increased ambition and increased opportunity for farmers to participate in measures which will deliver significant benefit to the environment, their income is central to that and they should be rewarded for the work they do. Farmers have shown their appetite and willingness to play their part and to take a leadership role, but it is important we do that together and recognise in financial terms the work they are carrying out.
I agree with the Minister, but it is important to say that in microgeneration especially, as one example, there is huge potential, including the potential to create clean energy and to double back on the perception of agriculture as an offender in respect of carbon emissions. The problem is that at the moment supports are fragmented between the SEAI and all that goes on and getting connections to the national grid. There is, therefore, a need for a cross-departmental approach to this. Also, it is important that the farmer who wants to get involved is supported fully - and not in a tokenistic way or in such a way that he has to produce a lot of paperwork without getting the gain - because otherwise farmers will just turn their backs on this. They are frustrated by the huge amount of bureaucracy attached to every scheme. Can we just keep it simple?
I concur with a lot of Deputy Canney's sentiments as to how we approach this. As we go forward, we will identify the level of ambition that is required and then engage as to how that is supported financially and how farmers are supported in that work. There is undoubtedly real potential in respect of renewables. That is an area we are exploring and will continue to explore and that farmers are very keen to explore and get involved in too. That work will continue.