CRAG: Who is the new group emerging in farming's fight for carbon rights?

CRAG: Who is the new group emerging in farming's fight for carbon rights?

The Carbon Removals Action Group (CRAG) was formed in 2019, but has come to prominence online this week following the announcement of the 25% carbon emissions reduction target for the agricultural sector.

A group asserting Irish farmers’ rights to receive credit for carbon sequestered on their farm is set to meet tonight in Tipperary.

Carbon Removals Action Group (CRAG) was formed in 2019, but has come to prominence online this week following the announcement of the 25% carbon emissions reduction target for the agricultural sector by 2030.

Co-founder Nadaline Webster works in the legal technology sector, working primarily with early start-ups through to equity events.

Her interest in agricultural emissions comes through her family, and her partner is an organic farmer in Co Limerick.

While the group remains quite small, up to 40 from its initial membership of 24, hundreds of farmers have backed its message this week on social media.

The group also attended a recent Oireachtas meeting focused on emissions, at which Co Limerick farmer and CRAG founder John Hourigan told TDs and senators that farming in Ireland is “undergoing a reputational crisis”.

Rights to carbon credits

Ms Webster told the Irish Examiner that she is “keen to hear from as many farmers as possible” at tonight’s meeting, explaining that “the range of ways in which farmers are affected by the range of moving parts [of the emissions debate] is quite surprising”. 

She said the group includes stakeholders, such as farmers and landowners interested in asserting their rights to their carbon credits, and perhaps also in trading these.

She added: “But, as circumstances changed over time and the picture became more clearer, our interests extended as far as carbon removals on-farm and by necessity emissions.” 

Ms Webster explained the group has sought the advice of researchers and legal advisors.

CRAG asserts there is value in carbon credits for every farmer in Ireland, adding that it is “critical” farmers “do not permit [their] ownership of our own land to be diminished”.

“Not only do we need to establish our ownership of our own land but the exercise of those ownership rights in circumstances - where it frankly, does not serve the Government's interests to allow us to do so, although it serves the national interest,” the group claims.

“Furthermore, we cannot allow our Government to create policies that ignore the existing science and use those policies to punish every farmer in this country.” 

According to CRAG, the Government allows landowners to pursue “voluntary carbon contracts” – explaining these as “the sale of carbon credits that cannot be offset against emissions in any meaningful sense and that companies use in a marketing capacity”.

“These contracts are not [to] be undervalued and for some farmers, there are revenue streams to be unlocked there," the group claims.

“For the present time, you will not be allowed to offset your removals against your emissions resulting in the ridiculous situation where a farmer who is actually carbon positive might well be forced to reduce stock numbers and income."

CRAG says it will “advocate for our property rights, taking legal action as necessary”; and work to ensure carbon credits can be monetised by property owners.

The group is also working to “help farmers to develop markets and secure buyers for their carbon credits, both voluntary and offset credits”.

'Scared for their futures'

Ms Webster said that farmers, “at this point in time, are justifiably, very angry and very scared for their futures”.

“And there don’t seem to be too many answers for them in finding a resolution or some pathway to a situation that is better than us potentially losing a third of the national herd,” she added.

The group came about after Mr Hourigan wanted to sell carbon credits from his own farm, based on his carbon footprint calculation by Bord Bia.

He told the recent Oireachtas committee meeting, it indicated the farm was emitting 714 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“I talked to a professor in the University of Limerick, who told me my forestry was removing about 400 tonnes and my grass was removing around another 300 or 400 tonnes, so I was net neutral,” he said.

“Is that not what we all want to be? If more farmers were net neutral, we would not have a problem but we are not allowed to account for what we are removing.

“Down the line, if we are not allowed account for the removals by our forestry and grassland, it is a pointless discussion. We are going nowhere.”

More in this section

Farming
Newsletter

Keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in Farming with our weekly newsletter

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up
Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up