Government credibility on the line over Minister for Agriculture's solo-run on climate targets

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Suggestions that the rest of economy can cut emissions three times faster than agriculture "patently absurd"

With ministerial negotiations on sectoral emissions ceilings intensifying ahead of a July deadline, climate campaigners have reacted with fury to media reports [1] that the Minister for Agriculture is refusing to accept a proposed pollution reduction target of target of 30% and that "Government sources expect the sector will be permitted to reduce emissions close to the lowest allowable level, resulting in other sectors being asked for deeper cuts" [2]. Friends of the Earth understands that proposals from Minister McConalogue and his Department that other sectors should take up the slack for lower ambition in agriculture has caused considerable alarm not just for Minister Ryan but across Government, given the extreme burden this would put on other Departments.

Even with agricultural pollution cuts of 30% the rest of the economy and society would need to cut its emissions by twice that, 60%, in order to meet the 51% national target now enshrined in law. If agriculture was given a 22% target the rest of the economy would need to cut emissions by close to 70% in just 8 years, something that has been described as "completely implausible" by a leading professor of energy modelling.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth chief executive, Oisín Coghlan said:

"It's not just that it's not fair to ask the rest of society to cut pollution three times as fast as agriculture, it's that it's not feasible. If the Government divides the national 'pollution pie' between sectors in a patently absurd way they will undermine the credibility of the whole exercise. It would make a mockery of the climate law passed by the Oireachtas less than a year ago.

"We've known for some time that to meet the 51% target in the climate law every sector would have to cut pollution at the top end of the ranges published last year [3]. Agriculture was already given the least ambitious range of 22% to 30%, compared to an average of 57% for the other sectors. But if Minister McConalogue secures a 22% target the rest of the Government will have to deliver cuts across the rest of the economy approaching 70%, which is so far-fetched that it loses credibility and power.

Professor Hannah Daly, a leading energy systems modeller at UCC whose analysis underpinned the carbon budgeting proposals from the Climate Change Advisory Council, yesterday described a 70% target for the rest of the economy as "completely implausible"  and described it as "very troubling that the Minister for Agriculture is still holding out for lower emissions cuts for his industry." [4]

Mr Coghlan continued:

"In 2011 the power of the agricultural lobby torpedoed a Climate Bill that would have required cuts in national emissions of 3% a year. That was reckless short-termism. It was another 10 years before the Dáil finally passed a strong climate law.

"Because of that lost decade we now face much steeper emissions cuts of 7% a year. And even though agriculture is already being asked to do less than any other sector their lobbyists are pushing for an outcome that would once again undermine the whole climate action effort.

"The Taoiseach and Ministers must stand up for the public interest and face down lobbyists for vested interests. Minister McConalogue needs to remember he works for all voters not just the vested interests who lobby his Department.

"The three coalition leaders jointly launched the climate Bill a year ago and jointly launched the the Climate Action Plan last November. Now they must ensure that all ministers accept their fair share of climate action.

"Micheál Martin has been talking a talking a good game on climate action of late. Now it's time to deliver. This really is senior hurling now Taoiseach."

Friends of the Earth has produced a briefing "Four questions the Government has to answer on the sectoral emissions targets" [5].


1. Recent media reports on the position of the Minister of Agriculture in the negotiations on the sectoral emissions ceilings

2. Quote from


4. Prof Hannah Daly Twitter thread 21 June 2022.

5. Our briefing is online here: