Use carbon tax to pay farmers to move to 'low carbon' models, says Eamon Ryan

Use carbon tax to pay farmers to move to 'low carbon' models, says Eamon Ryan

Green Party learder Eamon Ryan TD said revenues from the carbon tax should go towards protecting people from fuel poverty. File picture: Julien Behal

Money raised from carbon taxes should go towards paying farmers to plant their land and rewet bogs, the Green Party leader has said.

Eamon Ryan wants to use the controversial tax to pay farmers to change to a "low carbon" model which would include reducing the national herd, planting native-style forests that encourage biodiversity and restoring bogland.

The Government has already indicated that carbon taxes will be increased by another €6 per tonne in next month's Budget after a similar hike last year.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Ryan said revenues from the carbon tax should go towards protecting people from fuel poverty but also should be used to pay for "new innovative support measures in agriculture so that people in rural communities particularly are able to take part in this transition in a way that they also have a secure income."

He said young farmers must be paid well and supported in restoring biodiversity and storing carbon, however, he admitted these changes would see a reduction in the national herd.

"Central to this whole climate strategy has to be a land use plan and that land use plan first and foremost has to have an objective of seeing rural Ireland thrive, seeing rural communities really alive and young people getting jobs and getting work, including in farming and forestry and managing the land," he said. 

"It secondly has to set out how you store carbon and how you restore biodiversity.

But certainly shaping the incentives and the payment system so that we pay young farmers well for the type of farming, that will help achieve other objectives — restoring biodiversity and storing carbon.

Mr Ryan said the move to more sustainable types of agriculture would involve reducing the amount of fertiliser and pesticides used, which would lower costs but would allow farmers to charge a premium for their cattle and sheep

"You will have less density, and therefore lower herd size, but you're getting a better price to compensate the farmer for the lower numbers," he said. 

"What we're going for is quality not quantity, and in quality getting a price that pays Irish farmers properly. Yes, less numbers, but more income in the end for our farming community."

He said these changes could also be promoted through changing the way the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) works so that the billions of euro that is put into agriculture goes to measures which lead to this better biodiversity and lower carbon farming.

However, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has consistently voiced opposition to any reduction in the national cow herd claiming it is a lazy narrative that ignores the science and international climate policy.

Instead, the IFA say the short lifespan of methane in the atmosphere must be recognised and farmers should be given the full credit for the carbon that is stored and sequestered in their hedgerows, grassland, and crops.

Along with bringing down the number of cattle in the country, Mr Ryan told the Irish Examiner that 30% of our land should be planted.

"That helps us manage our water quality and flood management. That does store carbon and creates a lot of employment and it's closer to nature forestry, it's moving away from clear felling and and monoculture plantations. It'll take time. But that's the change of direction we're going to go in," said Mr Ryan.

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