THE IFA is not fully convinced that the amendment to the Climate Action Bill that gives a legal basis to carbon sinks is what they lobbied for, and they want more time for debate and scrutiny.
The amendment, which had been tabled by Senator Tim Lombard, was accepted by government last Friday, and will go through the Dáil this week.
However, IFA Munster regional chair Harold Kingston said: ‘We had asked for a simple change of two words to be included in the Bill. They were “minus removals” but what we got instead were two very complicated pages,’ he said.
Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue came forward with their own amendments, which allows for government to decide which ministers may use removals for compliance with carbon budgets.
The amendments allow for legislation to be crafted to measure carbon removals and sinks.
However, the Courtmacsherry farmer said that putting something into legislation without getting it precisely right was extremely dangerous.
‘You only have to look at the Fair Deal scheme, where farms weren’t allowed for, and which still hasn’t been changed. Meanwhile, this legislation is far more complicated and more far-reaching and it’s being rushed through before summer recess,’ he said.
He said if it hadn’t been for Sen Lombard, there would have been no recognition at all for carbon sequestration.
‘But that leads us to wonder what else has been skipped over, and that is our worry.’
IFA president Tim Cullinan said they needed a clear commitment from the government that they will take removals into account and clarity on how they will account for them.
Harold said Minister Eamon Ryan had previously told their organisation that he believed in reducing the national herd.
‘The view seems to be that it’s easier to change agriculture than transport. But there’s no way we’d see a situation where, as the only ones who can actually sequester carbon, we have to reduce production to allow people drive cars or go on a plane for a holiday,’ said the IFA representative.
He said they’ll be taking advice on the matter ahead of the Bill going through the Dáil this week. However, Sen Lombard said he was satisfied the amendment will allow farmers account for the removal of carbon into soils, bogs, and hedgerows.
‘There’s no technical way to measure carbon that is sequestered. So this will enable legislation to be put in place for ministerial guidelines on how to measure removals,’ he said.
He said his amendment had ‘opened a Pandora’s Box’ and had forced the attorney general and the Dept of Environment and Agriculture to look at the issue.
He acknowledged it was unfortunate there wasn’t more time to debate the issue and described this as a ‘small win.’
‘But there is more to be done in this space especially in the measurement of methane,’ he admitted.
The biggest problem he said, is a lack of farming representatives at national level.
Outside of himself, and FF TD Jackie Cahill, who is the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, he said ‘active farmers were as rare as hen’s teeth’ at the table.
Harold concluded: ‘This Bill may have had legal scrutiny, but it has not had the political scrutiny that’s needed and our fear is that something else has been missed.’