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Clare farmers are sceptical of new environmental targets set out by the Government which will see the agriculture industry reduce their carbon output by 25%.

The sectoral emissions targets which were agreed at the end of July mandate that farmers take a quarter off their carbon output by 2030 as part of larger ambitions in Government to reduce carbon emissions for the state as a whole by over half by the same year and achieve neutrality by 2050. However, this has left some farmers believing they are “scapegoats” for the country’s climate woes.

“We’re not happy at all,” Bunratty dairy farmer Joe Melody told The Clare Echo. “We have a target that would be much higher than we would have hoped for, and we just have the target we don’t have any idea what it will lead to in terms of measures that will need to be implemented, and the big worry from the farmers point of view is that the Minister, and several other prominent politicians have said, it won’t lead to a cull or any other sort of herd reduction, but of course it will lead to some sort of herd reduction, it has to.”

“My concern on a wider level is that this is going to lead to higher emissions from the agricultural sector worldwide because the void left by less production, mainly in Ireland of dairy and beef and perhaps lamb, will be filled, and it could be filled in Brazil, as indicated that they’re going ramp up their beef production. We are only a drop in the ocean and we are producing it in the most sustainable manner” said the Fine Gael member.

Melody added, “We often talk about the whole industry but there’s actually families, people’s livelihoods behind these cuts, it’s not one large monolith of an industry that’s there like an ominous herd of cattle that are going to wreak havoc on the environment, it’s loads of small family farms and we seem to be left in the dark at minute. That’s a huge concern, I think that’s going to be on most farmer’s minds and farm family household’s minds this week just wondering where this industry is going, maybe we’ve been forgotten”.

Clare IFA Chairman, Thomas Lane expressed similar concerns, “The IFA were looking for 21 or 22% not the full 25%. We know what we can achieve in that 21 to 22%, to push the boat out a little more and look for 25%, what we really need for that to happen, is an awful lot of money put into farming, into equipment, into investment and into research. Unless that money is forthcoming it’s going to be very difficult to reach that target”.

“There is an over-focus on farming, farming is supposed to be the highest emitter and yet it’s only 33%, the other 67% is really fossil fuel usage and to really get a good cap on emissions the fossil fuel burning has to be addressed otherwise we’re at nothing,” he added.

Many farmers share this belief that the agriculture sector has garnered an unfair portion of the attention in the climate conversation, “I think farmers are a bit of a scapegoat for the whole thing” said Quilty farmer Joseph Woulfe, “there is only one focus and that’s farmers, there doesn’t seem to be a focus on anything else. There’s no talk about reducing the number of planes in the sky by 25%” the Clare Beef Plan Chairman commented.

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