In its third report, How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, the Citizens’ Assembly recommended the introduction of a tax on emissions from agriculture together with rewards for farmers that undertake land management that delivers enhanced carbon sequestration benefits. In addition, the Assembly also recommended that the State should review and revise regulations and supports for land use diversification for example in relation to supports for planting forests in accordance with best environmental practice and encouraging organic farming.
The report of the Citizens’ Assembly was submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas in April of this year, and the Houses subsequently established the Joint Committee on Climate Action to further consider the recommendations and report by the end of January 2019.
In the context of the consideration of each of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly it is now a matter for the Joint Committee to consider whether and how each recommendation might be taken up by Government.
In this context, the Committee is engaging with each Government Department, at Secretary General level, on their respective policies in place and position in response to the Citizens’ Assembly. In relation to the specific recommendations referred to, the Deputy will be aware that matters relating to taxation policy are the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and matters relating to forestry policy are for the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
In relation to the overall role that forestry has to play in the achievement of Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objectives, the National Policy Position sets out a long-term objective for Ireland’s agriculture and land use sector entailing an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Further analysis is now under way, led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to consider how this objective can be further articulated and the long-term implications for its achievement. Notwithstanding this ongoing work, I consider it absolutely essential that the State continues to support sustained high rates of annual afforestation into the future to secure the long-term sequestration benefits of forestry in support of the National Policy Position for 2050.
Ireland’s National Policy Position is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which recognises the importance of land use activities in mitigation efforts by Parties, including the need to address emissions associated with agricultural activities and deforestation and the role that can be played by the sector in contributing to sequestration of greenhouse gases. The implications of the Paris Agreement objectives for the land use sector will be the subject of a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be published in 2019, which will address sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas emissions from the land use sector.