Macra na Feirme Welcomes Climate Action Plan But Warns That Change Must Be ‘Fair For All’

Post on: Thu, 20, June 2019

Rural Youth Organisation Macra na Feirme has welcomed the Government’s Climate Action Plan as a step forward in essential leadership on climate change. Commenting on the plan Macra na Feirme National President Thomas Duffy said, ‘Moving beyond simple carbon taxation is essential, now the focus must move towards rewarding adopters of low carbon technology and practices. It must be remembered that rural Ireland’s position is particularly vulnerable from rushed or mismanaged implementation just as it is from the results of our warming climate.’

Macra na Feirme wholeheartedly welcomes the recognition of the importance of the Teagasc Marginal Cost Curve. It lays out measures farmers can carry out with both a financial and environmental benefit. These include, increased efficiency of fertiliser through improved soil fertility and improved genetics which benefits farmers as much as the environment by reducing both the cost to farmers and reduced resource use. However, we believe the targets within the MACC warrant review on the basis of more recent research and the rapid uptake demonstrated in measures such as LESS (Low Emission Slurry Spreading) by farmers. These targets we believe should be reviewed include increasing targets above 50% replacement of CAN with Protected Urea and targets greater than 25% and 15% on beef and dairy farms respectively for uptake of clover. However, these targets require buy-in from retailers and commercial operators along with more targeted advice privately and publicly. All targets laid out in MACC however, can only and be achieved by both financial and resource support from State Agencies to farmers.

In terms of electric vehicle adoption, it is undeniable these targets are ambitious, but in Macra’s view, appropriate. Many rural commentators have expressed concerns about a widening gap between rural and urban transport caused by rapid adoption of electric vehicles. Rural Ireland remains under-resourced in terms of rapid charging points. The commitment to significant financial investment in a greater roll out of chargers will be essential for rural uptake of EVs.

Commenting on this, Mr. Duffy said, ‘Much of travel-related emissions taking place in Ireland today are commutes to our major cities, EV investment alone will not meet targets on congestion or emissions. Rural Ireland needs significant investment in low carbon affordable public transport alongside investment in EVs.’

On carbon taxation increases, plans must be laid to ensure those most vulnerable, such as those in fuel poverty and those with no public transport links, do not suffer when they’re ability to adapt is so limited. Significant hikes in diesel and petrol prices along with phasing out gas and oil burners cannot put rural employment and development at risk by placing an unfair onus on the individual. A fair transition into the green economy must not ignore that many sectors do not have viable low carbon alternatives available such as is the case with farm machinery.

This document does not set detailed plans for a move toward a carbon neutral agriculture sector by 2050, unlike areas such as transport and building. However, the agriculture sectors including farmers have had guidance such as the Teagasc Abatement curve and initiatives like Origin Green. Ireland also remains a world leader in investment in product diversification R&D. While challenges remain, especially a higher return for farmers, no other sector has seen the level of commitment in Ireland that agriculture has. This is demonstrated by the fact that Ireland is a world leader in farm by farm carbon accounting through the work of farmers in completing farm carbon assessment.

Macra President Thomas Duffy concluded, ‘The Climate Action Plan is a much-needed step forward in leadership on climate change, now we must all ensure the steps are taken by government to make this change fair to all, rural and agricultural at the same rate as urban.’