Climate Action need to embrace changes in Farming to Meet Emissions Targets

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Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials regarding the Government’s response to climate change include discussions on transitioning focus from meat and dairy farming to more environmentally sustainable farming..  – Clare Daly. 

REPLY

I propose to take question No. 16 and 65 together.

On 28 November 2018, I announced the seven successful projects from the first Call for Applications under the Climate Action Fund. The projects span a range of sectors including agriculture, transport, district heating, and public lighting.

In the Agriculture sector, Gas Networks Ireland will be supported to deliver a facility that will allow renewable gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of wastes, including agriculture wastes such as slurry, to be injected into the national gas grid. The project will also support the use of this renewable gas in the transport sector through the development of two compressed natural gas fueling stations and grant support for 74 vehicles.

Having completed that assessment stage, the seven projects must now undergo the project validation process. The validation process will include more detailed examination of the projects, agreement of project outputs and payment timelines.

The scope, structure and timeframe of future calls for applications have not yet been determined. To assist development of future calls, my Department plans to hold a workshop with all those who applied under the first call. This workshop, which will be held this month, will provide the opportunity to provide feedback to applicants and also to inform the next call.

In July 2018 a new pilot scheme to support micro generation was introduced, initially targeting domestic self-consumption through a grant scheme for solar PV installation and battery storage. A review of the pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for micro generation including broadening the scheme to include other groups and other technologies. As I outlined in the Dáil on 27 November last, in response to the Micro Generation Support Scheme Bill, I am supportive in principle of providing a route to market for citizens and communities to generate their own renewable energy and receive a fair and efficient price for doing so. This very much aligns with Ireland’s energy policy as set out in the Energy White Paper 2015 and wider EU energy policy goals.

My Department is working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to the preparation of a new All of Government Plan to Address Climate Disruption, emphasising the need for agriculture to make a significant and positive contribution to climate mitigation. These discussions have focused on existing, scaled-up and new measures to cover regulatory enhancement, targeted supports, capital supports, and afforestation and wood mobilisation. As well as carbon abatement and sequestration, measures that result in energy displacement (i.e. substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy and renewable materials) have also been a focus of discussions. Reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020, which will likely incentivise particular farming practices and processes, will clearly play a significant role in determining the overall shape and configuration of the Irish agri-food sector in the next decade, and the European Commission’s current CAP proposals — which place a welcome focus on sustainability criteria, including carbon emissions — will play a critical role in the transition to more environmentally sustainable farming processes and activities.