Ireland’s election: a zero carbon free zone

I wrote a blog about the bidding war in the UK election in December 2019 (“UK Election – Zero Carbon – The bidding War”) . The Irish election, barely a month later, appears to inhabit a separate universe. While in the UK, parties were falling over themselves to up the ante in terms of the quantum and speed of emissions reduction, in Ireland it has been as though emission reduction is not an issue. Given Ireland’s poor track record on emissions, this is not surprising.

What follows draws on coverage by RTE. The election has seen a surge in support for Sinn Fein, the party which opposed a recommendation from the peoples’ assembly in 2017 to increase a carbon tax. The same party which fought this election on increasing CAP payments and subsidies for beef farmers. Indeed, none of the three main parties fought on any emission reduction target promises. Plenty of cosmetic proposals to improve public transport and home insulation, but no road plan on emissions and policies of continued support for the beef and dairy sector. In large part that is down to the significance of cattle in the Irish economy.

Irish Cattle Credit: Irish Times

The Irish Agriculture and Food Agency states “The agri-food sector in Ireland in 2016 generated 7% of gross value added (€13.9 billion), 9.8% of Ireland’s merchandise exports and provided 8.5% of national employment. When employment in inputs, processing and marketing is included, the agri-food sector accounts for almost 10% of employment.” Government policy is to increase the size of this sector.The government’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy has called for a 50% boost to milk production, as well as 20% added to the value of the beef sector. 

Ireland’s CO2 emissions are actually 9.6% higher than they were in 1990, they should be roughly 20% lower by EU standards. Agriculture contributes 33% of Irish emissions and those emissions are growing as the sector gets bigger. In 2017, Ireland generated 13.3 tonnes per capita of CO2 equivalent, only exceeded by Estonia and Luxembourg. Sweden was 5.5 tonnes, the UK 7.7 tonnes per capita.

It is questionable whether Ireland will reach its 2020 emission reduction target by 2030 and it could face fines of €7bn by 2030. Opinion polls suggest the EU is popular in Ireland, the question is when will the Irish government and the EU wake up to the need to reduce Irish emissions which must inevitably lead to a reduction in Irish agriculture production and employment.

As the UK introduces measure to reduce emissions (including in agriculture) will it consider tariffs on Irish imports produced under lower carbon environmental standards than those for UK meat and dairy producers?

If Ireland continues on this trajectory (with other countries) it will make it harder to persuade the UK public to support the zero carbon target when others do not.

#emissionreduction #ireland #euemissions #zerocarbon

© Chris Lenon and  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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