The Citizens Assembly, which was formed in 2016 to provide a representative voice for Irish citizens, presented its conclusions to the Oireachtas (parliament) yesterday (18 April).
Nearly nine out of ten members of the Assembly backed the introduction of a tax on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions – as well as moves to incentivise farmers who adopt regenerative practices to sequester carbon, putting CO2 back into the soil.
“There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practice,” the Assembly said in its report.
Citizens also backed increased scrutiny of the supply chain to tackle food waste. In total, 93% of the Members recommended the government should introduce a “standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste” at “every level” of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing waste.
The 13 point plan also urged the government to establish an independent body to put climate change at the centre of policy making in Ireland “as a matter of urgency”.
Eighty per cent of members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund climate change measures, including investments in retrofitting public buildings to reduce their carbon footprint and developing low-emission public transportation.
The Citizens Assembly also called on the government to review critical infrastructure to assess vulnerability to climate related events.
Carbon tax a ‘no go’: IFA
Responding to the report, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) insisted that the introduction of a carbon tax was a “no go” for the sector.
IFA president Joe Healy said increasing the existing carbon charge on farming would merely continue a “failed policy” of more taxes without delivering any reduction in national emissions.
According to data provided by the IFA, Ireland’s agricultural greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 3.5% since 1990. At the same time, national emissions are up 10.4%. In the case of transport, emissions have increased by 139%, the farming body stressed.
Healy called on stakeholders to move on from “divisive and unrealistic” calls for farmers to reduce emissions from their “emission efficient model of dairy and beef production”.
However, he did add some aspects of the report would provide a “real platform for change”. Measures backed by the IFA include introduction of legislation that would allow private citizens to sell electricity back into the national grid as well as provision for the “greatest possible levels” of community ownership in all renewable projects.
“Farming has a real role to play in the climate debate and the decarbonisation of the energy sector, through the mobilisation of our land resources for renewable heat, transport and electricity production…The publication of this Citizens’ Assembly report provides a real opportunity to restart the debate around Ireland’s response to the climate challenge in a more pragmatic way,” Healy suggested.