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Irish climate chief reassures farmers ahead of carbon cuts announced

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Eamon Ryan, Irish Minister for the Environment and leader of the Green Party, is seen during a TV interview in preparation for the Irish national elections in Dublin, Ireland, February 5, 2020. REUTERS / Phil Noble / File Photo

By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will order drastic cuts in agricultural carbon production next week, but warnings that it will cost tens of thousands of job losses miss the main opportunities the green program will create, said Thursday Environment Minister Eamon Ryan told Reuters.

The government will announce a politically divisive climate plan, defining which sectors of the economy will bear the bulk of the burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030.

Speaking ahead of next week’s UN climate summit COP26, Ryan said reports that agriculture would face cuts of 21-30% was “not far” from what would be announced and expected the national herd to decline over the decade.

But he disputed an economic impact report commissioned by the Irish Farmers Journal, which found that a 30% reduction in emissions would result in 56,000 job losses and a 25-31% drop in farmer incomes.

This ignores new sources of state funding to encourage farmers to keep carbon in the soil and the inevitable shift to organic production which can result in higher prices.

“You will see natural diversification and a less intense system, but also less costs and a higher premium. I think that’s the only way it will work, ”said the leader of the Green Party in an interview in his Dublin office.

“You have to look at how it actually works for Irish agriculture, and I think it is possible. “

Other sectors are expected to experience much larger cuts, with transport facing a reduction of around 50%.

Carbon production in power generation and heavy industry will be in “the kind of range” reported by the Sunday Business Post last week of 70-80% and 40-50% respectively, Ryan said.

Power generation will benefit from a major shift towards wind power, with 35 gigawatts of offshore wind expected, compared to just over 4 gigawatts of total wind capacity currently. The offshore wind farm floating on Ireland’s Atlantic coast is expected to start expanding later in the decade, he said.

Ryan, who also owns the transport portfolio, said it was not clear whether Irish aviation would decline by 2030, saying the industry would largely focus on increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

The volume of electricity used by data centers has become a politically charged issue in Ireland, with advocates of foreign direct investment claiming it is critical to maintaining the European headquarters of US tech giants.

Ryan said the location of the data centers helps and strengthens the country, but current growth rates, which he says will lead to data centers using 23% of the country’s electricity production by 2030, cannot continue.

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