Amendments see Greens cave into big Agri interests and gut climate bill hopes.
Two late amendments in the Seanad to the Greens Climate bill have exposed how the greens have caved into big agri-food interests. An already weak bill will be even weaker and do nothing to achieve actual cuts in agriculture emissions.
The Agri sector accounts for 30% of Irelands GHG emissions and is driven by big dairy and beef interests that profit the likes of Larry Goodman and not small farmers.
The amendments came from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael senators and were accepted by Ryan and praised by Green party senators. They essentially allow the Govt to decide how to calculate removals of CO2 when calculating a sectors carbon budget and its emissions ceilings. This could see credits being allocated that could be used to offset any proposed reductions needed in the sector.
While slightly technical in detail it means that the Ministers can use inventive accountancy tricks to arrive at a “balanced” GHG budget which will mean little if any actual cuts in emissions and do nothing about the growth in dairy herd numbers for example The amendments also make the climate council accept these methods when working out budgets. It also allows the Minister to change the “base year”, this is the year in which the proposed cuts in emission are based on. This could make a huge difference to what any percentage reduction might mean depending on the year chosen.
Calculating how much CO2 land or forestry actually takes up is notoriously difficult. In other similar schemes, it has been used by business interests to defraud and cheat their way out of any real reductions in emissions. Ryan has defended the amendments and promised a trading scheme within the agriculture sector; if this follows the pattern of other emission trading schemes it will reward large scale polluters, be prone to fraud and inventive accounting and do nothing to deal with escalating emission.
While pretending the move is about rewarding small struggling farmers, the reality is it’s a sop to vested and large agribusiness interests. It will see any real attempts to reduce herd numbers or challenge the likes of Larry Goodman postponed indefinitely. Similar trading schemes in the EU and elsewhere have been dogged by open fraud, inventive accountancy and have rewarded big business and big polluters.
Ironically Ryan rejected hundreds of amendments from People before Profit and others that tried to strengthen the bill and improve its provision on climate justice and a just transition. But late on Friday, he caved in easily to FF/FG and the big agribusiness interest. The Bill also exposes the Greens hopeless dependence on “market mechanisms” to tackle climate change; instead of challenging the logic of capitalism and its drive for profit, they believe that trading schemes, offsets and future tech solutions can save the planet and capitalism. The move by Ryan is the clearest indication yet that Green party politics will never be up to the task of fighting the causes of the climate crisis