Report Synopsis

How can Irish farmers be encouraged to meet GHG emission targets? The Role of the CAP

Pat O’Meara

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was first introduced in 1962. The CAP’s initial priorities were to deliver food security through guaranteed prices for farmers. Over the past 6 decades, it has been regularly reformed and has evolved away from pure production and market support to direct financial support subject to regulatory compliance requirements. The most recent reform took place in 2013 and the next reform is currently being negotiated.

CAP has a crucial regulatory and economic importance for European farmers. In Ireland direct payments funded through CAP equate to c. 70% of farm income and account for more than 100% of farm income in the cattle and sheep sectors. The future direction of CAP will be decisive for the Irish agricultural sector and individual farmers.

The EU Commission’s Agricultural Directorate (DGAGRI), the Agriculture Council (agriculture ministers from the member states) and the EU Parliament collectively decide the CAP, and it has been reformed to deliver on four main areas:

  1. Adequate and stable farm incomes
  2. Safe and affordable food, produced sustainably
  3. Support for the socio-economic fabric of rural areas
  4. Food security

However, more recently, societal expectations, legally binding GHG emission targets, including most recently the Paris Accord have also influenced demands to be delivered through the CAP budget.

In the last year, the EU has published the European Green Deal and its Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, which it intends to influence the new CAP. Climate change is one of nine objectives called out for the current reform, and now is the time to be debating and shaping the direction of CAP.

This report presents practises that can deliver GHG emissions reductions, looking at examples from the USA, France, England, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the absence of 4 heavy industry, agriculture accounts for one third of Ireland’s emissions and needs to show climate leadership.

The science of GHG emissions is complex, with much work still to do to correct anomalies in terms of verification of soil sequestration, carbon leakage and the impact of the methane lifecycle. However, we need to act now on the legally binding targets up to 2030, and influence the regulations for the post 2030 era as we work towards carbon neutrality.

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