There is no opt-out clause for any sector of our society. That is critical in this legislation. How we do this will involve everyone and benefit everywhere. Under the draft section 6A(9)(a)(ii), the advisory council would take into account relevant scientific advice, including on the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane. However, I will not support the amendment in changing the definitions as proposed. We must be careful with definitions of biogenic and non-biogenic methane. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, biogenic methane covers wetlands, agriculture, including the rearing of ruminants and growing of rice and other crops, landfills, forests, oceans and termites. Non-biogenic methane includes emissions from fossil fuel mining, biomass burning, waste treatment, geological sources, including geothermal and volcanic methane, and natural gas seepage in sedimentary basins. Differentiating between definitions right now would be highly complex.
Something else to consider is that the UN process imagines anthropogenic emissions versus natural emissions. We must differentiate between anthropogenic emissions – the likes of rice agriculture, livestock, landfills, waste treatment, biomass burning and fossil fuel – and emissions from natural sources, for example, wetlands, oceans, forests, fires and geological sources. The definitions in this regard are best managed within the UN and IPCC processes as they must be based on international agreement and international standards.
As set out in the Bill's wording, we must take into account the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane. The IPCC report from autumn 2018 recognised we would not reduce biogenic methane emissions or anthropogenic emissions from agriculture and other sectors to zero but we would have to do so in respect of fossil methane, which is the most critical step we must take. We will have to reduce anthropogenic and biogenic emissions, though. That is why there is no opt-out. Every sector must be involved.
I might refer to the international approach. Last autumn, the EU presented a new methane strategy. Critically, it differentiated between fossil methane – to simplify, the petroleum industry's methane – and biogenic methane. In this, there is an intimation of how differentiated the treatment could be. The EU does not set the rules in this regard, though. In an immediate sense, it sets the rules through CAP and other mechanisms, but Europe will have to adopt international agreements like the Paris process and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, process. We are working on that with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney. We have a seat on the UN Security Council, which is an opportunity for us to connect the security issue to climate, including the question of how we treat biogenic methane.
In my contribution to President Biden's big event on climate last month, we referred to the approach we would like to see taken internationally on biogenic methane. The US climate envoy, former Secretary of State, John Kerry, referred to that in his contribution when he spoken in Dublin recently. The approach to be taken is to use the likes of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which is an organisation established within the UN system, to look specifically at the management of or approach to short-lived greenhouse gases.
Everyone knows that methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas. It is short-lived in the sense that it oxidises in the upper atmosphere into carbon dioxide in a way that is very damaging and climate worrying. There is real international concern about methane. The level of methane in the atmosphere is rising rapidly and is of great concern. I expect to see international scientific reports re-enforcing that later this summer, so we must address the methane issue. The approach will and should differentiate. It should take into account best science. In the measuring and monitoring of this, a recent development has been the establishment of an EU-UN environmental programme, a methane monitoring observatory. These are the sort of science sources which we will adhere to.
It is an international agreement which has different implications for different counties. In regard to the area of agriculture, we should be supporting, wherever possible, agricultural systems that support not just our climate objectives - that must happen - but also our biodiversity and other objectives. We should look to support the form of agriculture - pastoral and family farms - which is good at climate adaptation and resilience, as well as climate mitigation. I am sorry for the long answer, but this is the crux of the issue. In a global context, we should do that in our role on the UN Security Council, in particular, where climate has to been seen as a critical security issue in a way that supports developing countries in Africa and small island developing states, SIDS, and supports the form of climate-resilient pastoral family-farming which is small scale, less intensive and less feedlot-orientated agriculture in regard to ruminants. That would have knock-on consequences for our country. It would support the kind of family farming system of agriculture, which I think we are agreeing on here.
We will have to work on this internationally. It can be good for the type of farming we want, which protects nature as well as rural Ireland. We should take heart from this. I listened intently to the president of the IFA today when he said - I know from my experience that the head of the ICMSA, Natura 2000 and hill farmers, and the other farm organisations increasingly understand this - that the vast majority of Irish farmers are committed to climate action. They increasingly understand that what we will have to do is reduce our emissions and increase their income. That is why I come back to how we treat and manage this. It is to look at mechanisms, and not that agriculture will get an opt-out and will not play its part. Going back to what I said earlier, in the autumn this committee will have to consider what the various sectoral allocations will be. The truth is that if we reduce our ambition in one area, it may put impossible constraints or obligations on other sectors, which might have significant consequences for employment or other aspects in the quality of our lives. Therefore, every sector is involved.
A key question within agriculture is, how do we increase income as we reduce emissions, including the reduction of the biogenic methane? We must recognise that this has to be good for Irish agriculture, and I believe it can be. That is the approach we will take on this. We have recognised that in the provisions of the Bill which state we take into account the scientific advice on biogenic methane. It is so complicated and multi-varied in its aspect that I do not think we can define it in the Bill. However, we have sufficient recognition in the Bill to connect those international developments I mentioned briefly there.