Environment Reports

Environment & Rural Affairs Council Report June 2021

Activity since last National Council 

  • IFA made a submission to the public consultation on the Agriculture, Land Use, Forestry and Marine section of the “Climate Conversation” on the Climate Action Plan 2021. A copy of the submission is enclosed. In the submission IFA stated that:
    • The reduction target for agriculture must be significantly lower than the targets set for other sectors to recognise the economic and social importance of the sector, the technical challenges to reduce emissions as well as the timeframe required for adoption. Late action trajectory to meet the emission reduction targets is also required to provide time for new practices and technologies to be adopted, measured and verified. 
    • It does not make economic or environmental sense to displace food production in Ireland that has a proven track record of carbon efficient production to countries with higher emission food production systems, as this will result in substantial carbon leakage. 
    • Given the likely impacts of climate change on the world’s poor and vulnerable communities, we cannot afford to approach agriculture with a silo mentality. Carbon leakage, food security and farmers’ livelihoods must be fully integrated into the climate mitigation plan. 
    • To properly address climate change, it is important that policy accurately reflects the different global warming impact associated with biogenic methane, and provides farmers with fair and reasonable means to manage emissions and reduce the impact on the environment. The climate effect of biogenic methane is important, but very different from that of CO2.
    • A key barrier to meeting the climate action targets is the financial vulnerability of many farms. To support the sector to deliver on climate action it will be necessary to develop new direct incentives outside of CAP to support the adoption of mitigation measures. The Programme for Government commitment to provide €1.5 billon for the development of agri-environment schemes must be honoured. In addition, targeted support through the Just Transition Fund and development of new Carbon Farming schemes are required. 
    • Farm and community scale renewable energy generation offers the opportunity to not just meet renewable targets but contribute to sustainable economic growth. It is vital that farmers and communities are supported and that barriers to adoption are removed, so they can be central to Ireland’s future energy generation. 
    • The Teagasc MACC estimates that the agricultural sector could sequester 26.8 million tonnes CO2 equivalent over the 2021-2030 period through afforestation, the management of peaty agricultural soils as well as optimal grassland and cropland management. It is crucial that the carbon sequestration potential of the sector is included in the carbon budgets and that farmers are incentivised to enhance carbon storage through carbon farming schemes.
  • IFA issued a press release stating that farmers and rural Ireland support climate action. However, achieving environmental targets must be balanced with the sector’s competitive role in producing high-quality, nutritious food at a reasonably low cost. 
  • IFA met with Minister Eamon Ryan to discuss our concerns with regards to the Climate Action and Low Carbon (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the implications for Irish agriculture. A follow up letter issued to Minister Eamon Ryan outlining the key amendments to the Bill which the IFA are seeking. These included changes to definition of carbon budget, amendments to what Climate Change Advisory Council should consider when preparing carbon budget, greater clarify with regards to biogenic methane and take all carbon leakage is considered. 
  • An Amendments to Climate Action Bill to protect Irish agriculture lobbying document was prepared, a copy of the document is enclosed. This outlines the amendments IFA is seeking to Climate Bill. This was emailed to all the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and to all rural TDs. 
    • The Environment committee followed up by contacted their local TDs and Senators that are members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Climate Action to make them aware of the amendments ahead of the Joint Oireachtas Climate Action committee meeting Tuesday, 1st June.
  • IFA met with Sinn Fein to discuss the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021. Matt Carthy TD and the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee members; Deputies Darren O’Rourke (Meath East) and Reada Cronin (Kildare North) were in attendance.
  • IFA developed a document, Irish Farming its Green Credentials, which outlines Irish farmers’ current sustainability credentials in response to media commentary around agriculture. A copy of the document is enclosed.
  • Speaking notes were prepared for the President in advance Irish Climate Summit 2021, which took place on the 29th April. 
  • IFA met with the Nitrate Expert Group to discuss the recent submission to the public consultation on the Stage 1 public consultation on the Fourth Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Action Plan. The 2nd stage consultation is expected to open in June. 
  • There has been significant activity as part of the Smart Farming programme: 
    • IFA held a Smart Farming briefing webinar to give farmers, who are interested in learning more about Smart Farming, an opportunity to find out more about the programme and what is required by participating farmers. The event was chaired by Paul O’Brien, National Environmental & Rural Affairs Committee Chair with presentation from Karol Kissane who participated in the programme 
    • IFA hosted the annual Smart Farming Spring Seminar on 22nd April World Earth Day. The theme for the event was “Restore & Enhance Farmland”. Speakers included Tom O’ Dwyer, Head of Teagasc Signpost Programme on The Signpost Programme: Farming for Climate Action, Andrew Bergin – a Farming for Nature Ambassador on Land Restoration through No-Till Cereals and Clare Hill – Director of Regenerative Agriculture, FAI Farms (UK), on Regenerative Farming. The seminar can be watched online.  
    • A meeting was held with Jenny Deakin, EPA Senior Catchment scientist to discuss opportunities to improve agriculture’s impact on water quality under the programme. 
    • A three-year vision plan for the programme is being developed and a Steering Committee established to support its development. 
    • A tender for the Agronomist services for the 2021 programme was held, Philip Farrelly & Company were the successful service provider. The 2021 Resource Efficiency Assessment studies are underway with participating farmers. 
    • A new soil guidance note is being developed with input from Teagasc. 
  • IFA met YARA to discuss some of the organisation’s product initiatives which will contribute to the agriculture sector in addressing emissions’ targets.
  • IFA met with Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) to discuss the development of new Environmental Management courses. 
  • IFA met with UCC in relation to MaREI research project looking at Support Tools for Community Renewable Energy to investigate the effectiveness of an online support tool to support communities. 
  • IFA met with National Broadband Ireland to discuss the rollout plans for rural broadband. 
  • An IFA delegation met with Teagasc to discuss the Nitrates Action Plan and Signpost Farms.
  • The 2nd IFA & Bord na Móna Working Group meeting took place to continue discussions on the Peatlands Climate Action Scheme. Mark Wilson, RPS Group gave a presentation on the Drainage Management Plans that are being undertaken in advance of the peatland’s rehabilitation plan. During the meeting, it was agreed that Bord na Móna would:
    • Arrange an on-site visit to a bog being rehabilitated under the scheme as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allowed for it to demonstrate the process in further detail.
    • Attend a follow up online meeting with stakeholders and IFA members.
    • Bord na Móna gave written responses to queries received from farmers after the online discussion meeting on the Peatlands Climate Action Scheme these can be viewed on the IFA website here.   
  • IFA issued a press release in response to the statement of intent received from Bord na Móna stating that a Code of Practice agreement is still required between Bord na Móna and IFA.
  • Negotiations with Transport Industry Ireland (TII) on the draft Code of Best Practice and Guide for National Greenway Projects are ongoing, several meetings have taken place and the draft code is nearing completion. 
  • IFA attended a number of meetings including; the Water Forum as well as a catchment subcommittee meeting, Fertiliser Association of Ireland and National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) to discuss pesticide exceedances in public drinking water supplies.
  • The National Environment and Rural Affairs committee met as well as the newly elected Environment and Rural Affairs Management committee. 

Any EU/COPA developments

  • Virtual elections of the Vice-Chairmanship of the Working Party on Environment will be held on 3rd June. 

Upcoming issues

  • The Committee Stage for the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 starts at 9.30am on Thursday June 3rd and will continue the following week.
  • Submission to be made to the EPA Circular Economy Programme. Deadline 11th June 2021.
  • Submission to be prepared for the 2nd stage of the public consultation on the Fourth Review of Ireland’s Nitrates Action Plan. 
  • IFA Bord na Móna site visit to Boora Bog in July to view the Peatlands Climate Action Scheme rehabilitation measures on the ground.

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