Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue says he’s ‘absolutely committed’ to a 51% reduction in emissions across the economy by 2030.

He was speaking as talks around carbon reduction targets for the agriculture sector are continuing.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan sets out targets of between 22% and 30% for that sector.

It accounts for 37% of Ireland’s total carbon output.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan wants the final target to land near the higher end – while the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) say only a 22% can be achieved.

Asked if he’s fully committed to the top-end targets, Minister McConalogue told On The Record:”We’re absolutely committed to reaching the 51% reduction across the economy by 2030 – without a doubt.

“What we have to agree, then, in terms of the sectoral targets is ensuring that each sector can do the maximum that they can.

“From an agriculture point of view, that’s balancing our capacity to minimise emissions – while continuing to [play] that important role of producing food”.

He says work is ongoing on the sectoral targets.

“There’s very productive and constructive engagement over the last few weeks, and indeed this has been ongoing now for many months across Government departments.

“What we want to do now, in the best time frame possible, is agree the sectoral targets for each sector of the economy.

“It is a key objective of the Government, and one which we’re all very committed to, of reaching that 51% reduction in emissions by 2030.”

Asked if there will be an emissions deal reached next week, he says: “I think we’re all working productively.

“Obviously until you have a deal done, it’s really impossible to know when it will happen”.

‘Stabilising the national herd’

Minister McConalogue says agriculture emissions will see a drop this year.

“I would expect them to reduce – the 2022 figure to be a reduction on this week’s report on the 2021 figures.

“Last year’s was an increase… a big reason for that was actually that grass growth from last summer was poor, and that meant that increased fertilizer was applied.

“It’s different this year, there’s less fertilizer being applied.

“I’m fully confident next year we’ll see agriculture emissions reduced – and what’s really important is that every year after that, we have a downward trajectory.”

Asked if this means the national herd will be cut, Minister McConalogue says: “What I would foresee here is a stable situation with regard to our herd.

“There has been expansion in recent years from 1984 to 2015.

“There was milk quotas in place, which restrained the capacity of farms to produce milk.

“Since the quotas were done away with in 2015 we’ve seen an increase in the herd because of, primarily, increased milk production.

“That is stabilising now… and I expect to see a stable herd over the time ahead”.

Main image: Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue speaking to the media as he arrived at Dublin Castle for a Cabinet meeting in May 2022. Picture by Sasko Lazarov RollingNews.ie