Climate collapse and trees: Common good must prevail

The Government is slowly realising, or at least belatedly acknowledging publically, that it needs to do much more to lead cultural change on climate collapse aversion programmes.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has pointed to one measure, saying the State must buy land for forestry and encourage all farmers to plant trees. This is all entirely laudable, even if it raises what will be one of the thorniest issues around climate measures — are landowners entitled to indulge in behaviours that will, if unchanged, lead to unsustainable emissions and fines levied on the public purse? And who, if anyone, pays to rectify this behaviour?

European farming is directly subsidised to the tune of around €60bn a year — over €1.3bn of that reached Ireland last year — so that offers leverage. So too does the principle that no other sector is paid not to indulge in destructive behaviour. It may be undiplomatic to describe paying agriculture not to exacerbate climate chaos as blackmail but the principle is, unfortunately, just the same.

This one issue shows how very difficult and potentially divisive this process will be and how mindsets have to change. Essentially, the issue is whether we afford individual property rights greater privilege than the common good — the issue at the root of the housing crisis too.

It is seems fair to suggest that farm grants be linked to modified behaviour, the kind of change every sector will have to embrace in one way or another.

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