Ireland has accepted the EU target of cutting its emissions by 40% by 2030, knowing the country’s burden was and would be an issue, he said.
Emissions, especially from the country’s national herd amount to 42% of the non-tradable greenhouse gas emissions, and this is the highest in the world after New Zealand.
“We do have a big challenge. Agriculture has no free pass and we are not asking for one, but it needs to be treated as a separate category that has a limited abatement potential. It is not like transport where electric cars can replace diesel”.
Ireland, with the second- highest GDP in the EU, is likely to be allocated a high target under the 2020 emissions scheme.
Not achieving it will result in fines or see the country buying carbon credits by investing in carbon absorption schemes, such as rainforests in South America.
Mr Coveney said the massive investment of around €119 million a year in tree planting on farms and in allowing land lie fallow to absorb carbon should reduce emissions from agriculture by 20%.
The national food and farm plan sees the dairy herd increasing by 23% with milk production increasing by 50% due to better feeding and breeding, so more investment in forestry and other carbon sinks will be necessary, he said, as well as the ongoing work into breeding and feed.
“I am a big climate change believer and I am very excited by the results from Paris. The world has finally got serious about climate change”, he said.
He added that Ireland’s share of the EU’s 40% target was and is an issue.