Environment Reports

Environment Council Report February 2024

  1. Activity since last National Council  
  • During a visit to Ireland on 23rd November Commissioner Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries met with representatives of the Agriculture Water Quality Working Group, including Paul O’Brien, Chair Environment Committee and Tadhg Buckley, Director of Policy to discuss Nitrates Derogation. At a press conference prior to meeting representatives, he stated that there were no grounds for modifying the derogation decision and that all areas where water quality had reduced the nitrates derogation limit from January 2024 would be reduced to 220kg/N/ha. However, he did encourage Ireland to find flexibilities inside the derogation and to propose measures to cushion the transition for farmers. Copy of speech is available here.  
  • The DAFM Agriculture Water Quality Working Group had two meetings in December and January to prepare a report to be submitted to both Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the Nitrates Action Plan.  
  • The An Taisce case, which is seeking a judicially review the Government’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP), was heard in the High Court’s planning and environmental division from the 12th to 15th December 2023. IFA is a Notice Parties to the challenge. All parties presented a statement of grounds, a verifying affidavit and ex parte documents. The case is expected to re-convened in late February 2024.   
  • The 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) 2023 to 2030 was published on 25th January. The plan recognises the work that is ongoing at farm level to improve biodiversity, however the scope of the plan is more extensive than previous iterations, and proposes some significant legislative and policy changes that need to be considered. IFA have sought a meeting with NPWS to discuss the NBAP and the funding that will be available to support farmers to deliver on the plan. The 4th NBAP is available here.   
  • Following the conclusion of the trilogue negotiations on the 9th November, provisional agreement on the comprised text EU Nature Restoration Law was endorsed and formally adopted by Council (22nd November) and Parliament (29th November) and Plenary is expected to in February. The compromise text is less ambitious than the Commission’s initial proposal. It includes the following:  
  • Food security as an objective (Article 1).  
  • Requirement to prevent significant deterioration of areas subject to restoration that have reached good condition and of certain listed areas of terrestrial habitats (Natura 2000), however the requirement is effort-based rather than results based (Article 4).   
  • Agricultural ecosystems measures have been reintroduced although the rewetting targets will be voluntary for farmers, the targets less strict and includes an additional requirement that the State must make rewetting an attractive option for farmers (Article). 
  •  An “emergency break” option has been added for 2033, to suspend implementation in agriculture if there are food security concerns.  
  • Importantly a finance mechanism which will lead to proposals for adequate funding to be in place a year after the entry into force of the NRL.  

IFA continue to have sought a meeting with the NPWS to get update on the development of Ireland’s Nature Restoration Plans, which need to be in place two year following the adoption of the regulation.   

  • The draft Climate Action Plan 2024 (CAP24) was published in December 2023, there are no substantive changes to the targeted measures to meet the 25% reduction in agricultural emissions by 2030, however latest plan contains key performance indicators (KPIs) for some measures and intends to continue to improve ability to measure proposed diversification actions to address concerns raised by the EPA in projected gaps. This is also addressed the 2023 Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) report by Teagasc. Public consultation on the CAP24 is pending, draft plan available to read here.  
  • NESC published Natural Capital Accounting – A Guide for Action Roundtable report.  The report sets out how to go about considering and valuing invisible services that nature provides. The three areas for action recommended within the report are: (i) capacity-building, (ii) spotlight on Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) schemes and (iii) support for integration: Advice on how to integrate natural capital accounting into the wider policy system. The report is available to read here.  
  • IFA attended Agriculture and Climate Change: Science in Action conference Aviva Stadium, 15th November 2023. The scientific updates included; feed additives, soil emissions, animal breeding and genetics and pasture management.  

IFA attended the 5th Consultative Group meeting – DAFM Climate KIC partnership. To date the initiative has produced a number of reports have been produced; (i) Ireland’s Land, Agri-Food System Map, (ii) Dealing with Climate Change and Sustainability Targets – The innovation potential for the Irish Agri-Food Sector (iii) Insights from national policy measures relevant to the land – agri-food system in Ireland and (iv) Irish Land-Agri Food Funding & Financing Landscape. These reports can be accessed here. The meeting provided an update on the 7 flagship projects that were established in phase 1:  

  • 3 long-term projects (2040 – 2050) with more strategic focus: (i) Ireland Land-Agri-Food Sector Re-Imagined – Vision 2050, (ii) Growing Irish Land, Agri-Food sector through Innovation and Investment in New Value Chains and (iii) Implement Circular Bioeconomy Models at Regional or Multiple Value Chains level.  
  • 4 short term projects (2030) more practical value chain focus: (i) Valorise environmental services to diversify incomes through a comprehensive Carbon Farming/Nature Credit Framework, (ii) Beef Value Chain Collaboration to produce and certify Climate Neutral Beef production, (iii) Dairy Value Chains Collaboration to Accelerate Emission Reductions and improve Sustainability on farms and (iv) Grow and diversify the Tillage sector.  
  • The EPA published Ireland’s first Climate Change Assessment Report (ICCA) on Thursday, 25th January. To read the report click here.  
  • The Department of Environment, Climate and Communication (DECC) has a public consultation open on National Adaptation Framework – Planning for a Climate Resilient Ireland 2024, closing date Monday, 19th February 2024, for more information click here.  
  • Teagasc FBD Environmental Sustainability Awards 2024 aims to promote environmentally sustainable farming. Closing date for receipt of applications is Thursday, 29th February. For more information click here.  
  • The European Union’s Just Transition Fund (EU JTF) has a funding call of €5 million for local community organisations and small-to-medium sized enterprises in the Midlands region. Closing date for application is 22nd February. For more information click here.  
  • The CRU public consultation on Uisce Eireann’s Non-Domestic and Trade Effluent Tariff Framework closes date Monday, 19th February. The framework sets out the ‘rules’ for how tariffs are designed and the level of the tariff that customers pay for water and wastewater services, with proposed increases to be introduced 1st October 2024. IFA attended briefing workshop on the consultation on 24th January. For more information click here.  
  • The Department of Environment, Climate and Communication (DECC) announced its intention to expand the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, from the 1st January 2025, to include all categories of tyres including agricultural tyres. IFA has sought a meeting with Minister Ossian Smyth to outline farmers concerns in relation to the proposed costs. For more information click here.  
  • IFA met with Circol ELT to discuss organising regional bring centres to collect waste tyres on farms in 2024 and 2025.  
  • The EPA published a Focus on Local Authority Environmental Enforcement – Performance Report 
  • 2022, a synopsis of the report with regards National Enforcement Programme (NEP) Water and Farm Inspections is enclosed.  
  • IFA attended the ASSAP Farming Consultative Group meeting in 27th November updates were provided by Agricultural Catchments Programme, LAWPRO and ASSAP.  
  • IFA met with representative from the French High Council for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas – CGAAER (a high-level advisory body under the direct authority of the Minister in charge of Agriculture), as part of an international comparative study on reducing methane emissions in agriculture. 
  • IFA attended IFFPG Management and Board meeting, a meeting with Department of Environment, Climate and Communication on the scheme, and organised an internal briefing on the scheme for new President and Environment Chair.   
  • IFA attended the Irish Policy Forum online conference on Addressing Biodiversity Loss in Ireland on the 25th January.  
  • The IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Committee met on 14th November and 23rd January in the Farm Centre. 
  1. Any EU/COPA developments 
  • IFA attended COPA Working Party on Environment and CDG on 13th and 14th November.  
  • IFA continued to made representation and proposed amendments on the Nature Restoration Law in advance of Plenary, which is expected to take place in February.  IFA is the Chair of the Biodiversity and Soil Working Group that is charged with coordinating COPA’s position on the NRL.  
  • The European Commission has launched a consultation that aims to evaluate the Nitrates Directive, wherein they wish to take into account farmer and land manager views. The closing date for submissions is 8th March 2024, to make a contribution to the public consultation:  Contribute to the public consultation.  
  1. Upcoming issues 
  • IFA will prepare submissions to the following public consultations; National Adaptation Framework – Planning for a Climate Resilient Ireland 2024, Non-Domestic and Trade Effluent Tariff and EU Nitrates Directive.  
  • IFA have been invited to participate in the closing panel discussion at the NESC Making Nature Visible: What Can NCA do for us? event on the 12th March.  
  • IFA coordinate with Circol ELT to organise regional bring centres for waste tyres.  
  • IFA will meet with NPWS to discuss (i) National Biodiversity Action Plan and (ii) Nature Restoration Law in February (date to be confirmed).  

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