A final deal to halve Ireland’s carbon emissions by the end of the decade appears to be delayed until September, as coalition leaders failed to resolve an ongoing impasse last night.
Inisters continue to struggle over the finer details of agricultural emissions targets, with political business now closing for summer vacation.
Environmental groups and its chair of the Green Party last night criticized Fianna Feil and Fine Gael’s inability to agree to higher cuts over fears about its impact on Ireland’s agri-food industry.
But Environment Minister Eamon Ryan and Agriculture Charlie McConaughey are at an impasse. While talks were still going on last night, there was no indication that an agreement would be reached on time to go before today’s cabinet meeting.
This is the last scheduled meeting of ministers due to recess for the summer, meaning climate deal talks are now likely to head towards the budget in September.
At a meeting of three party leaders – Taoiseach Michael Martin, Taniste Leo Varadkar and Mr Ryan, it was said that more time was needed for further analysis that targets for agriculture, which accounts for about 40 pc of all of Ireland’s emissions. , how can it actually be achieved.
A senior government source today categorically ruled out the possibility of a deal, saying “everybody needs a break”. He indicated there is no clear timeline now, with many insiders saying the agreement is likely to be delayed until at least September.
The delay means the Coalition will miss its deadline to agree on carbon reduction targets for all sectors of the economy by the end of July as part of a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions by 51 pc by 2030 .
While Mr Ryan has insisted on a maximum cut of 30 per cent from the agriculture sector, Mr McConaughey, who has been under pressure from Fianna Feel, Fine Gael and the farm lobby, wants a lower target. Rural Fine Gail backbenchers indicated they may support it, with a settlement between 24 PC and 26 PC under negotiation.
Mr McConaughey was told by one insider to agree to a reduction of 25 per cent, though others insisted no final figure had been set. A source said, “Every effort is being made to make up for this but the shortcomings remain.”
Senator Pauline O’Reilly, chair of the Green Party, criticized her coalition partners and Sinn Féin, saying: “It is time for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, not to mention Sinn Féin, to show her true colours. All of them signed off on a 51 percent reduction in carbon emissions.
“Are they going to be honest that this means massive emissions reductions in all sectors, including agriculture? Agriculture is the highest emitter of all sectors but has the lowest target range. Support is needed to change that, but It has to change.”
Friends of the Earth director Oisin Coughlan called for a deal to be signed ahead of the budget in September. “It cannot be 22 pc for agriculture because then it is impossible for all, it has to be strong in all sectors. If it takes a few extra weeks, so be it. But we have to move on on this. We have to start now and cut emissions drastically.”
Emission reduction targets for all other sectors such as power, transport, building, industry and land use are close to being confirmed.
Mr Varadkar had said in recent days that the industry would sign off on a 35 per cent reduction in carbon emissions – 2 per cent less than the highest target of 37 per cent. It is understood that the energy sector may face a 75 percent reduction in carbon emissions, despite the target of 62pc to 82pc for the power sector under the Climate Action Plan.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael backbenchers who have criticized the “scapegoat” of farmers and rural Ireland have indicated they could support an agricultural emissions target of more than 22pc. Over the weekend, Fine Gael TDs John Paul Phelan, David Stanton, Charlie Flanagan, and Paul Kehoe and Senators John Cummins and Garrett Ahern criticized the “false narrative” about agriculture and its impact on Ireland’s emissions.
However, Mr Kehoe said yesterday that he would “absolutely” return an agreement in the range of 24 pc to 26 pc, provided agricultural organizations were consulted and a significant financial package was provided. Former Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen called for a new stakeholder forum to monitor and advise on initiatives to reduce agricultural emissions over the next 18 months to two years.
Sinn Féin declined to specify what percentage it supported emissions reductions for the agriculture sector. Environmental spokesman Darren O’Rourke said it was a matter for the government and he “cannot pick a figure out of thin air”.
Social Democrats and People Before Profits both backed 30pc, while Labor leader Ivana Besik said cuts for the sector would need to be “closer to 30pc compared to 22pc”.