Ireland must put its money where its mouth is with the new and soon-to-be-published Climate Action Plan as its delegation prepares to take part in international climate negotiations in Glasgow.
This is the call from the Environmental Pillar, Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups, who are urging the Government to ensure the highly anticipated Climate Action Plan due for publication this week meets the ambitious rhetoric that is expected to take centre stage at the COP26 conference in Scotland. 
The aforementioned Plan is set to forge the path for Ireland to halve its emissions by the end of the decade, a target we must meet in order to have a shot at keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 C pre-industrial levels. 
This roadmap will impact every aspect of our society and our economy and it is imperative every sector do its fair share as we embark on transforming our destructive business-as-usual model into a regenerative and restorative one.
This includes agriculture – which is both our largest emitting sector and is one of the greatest pressure on our natural habitats. 
To date, the sector accounts for well over a third of our national emissions and wreaks havoc on our much-depleted biodiversity. Yet despite this stark reality, the State continues to pursue detrimental agri-food policies that lock us into higher emissions and continues to strip us of the life-sustaining biodiversity we all depend on.
The latest such blueprint for the sector aims to do just that, which is why the Environmental Pillar withdrew from the Committee drafting the document in February after we concluded the document was woefully inadequate to meet the social and environmental challenges we face. 
If the sector is not required to pull its weight, then other sectors will be expected to slash their emissions even further and may in fact be unable to do so.
The solutions put forward in this Plan must work alongside and with nature by sharply veering away from intensified agriculture that has driven the majority of our farmland birds to endangered conservation status. They must enshrine a Just Transition and centre locally produced and financially viable family farms, who have been largely cast aside when it comes to agri-food policies.
Given the importance of good forestry in addressing our climate and biodiversity crises, we must first ensure that our vulnerable ancient woodlands are properly managed to expand with connectivity via permanent native woods, hedgerows and agroforestry on farms planned under a coordinated national native woodlands strategic plan that includes strict protection.
Environmental Pillar co-ordinator Karen Ciesielski said:
“The Irish delegation going to COP26 is likely to present Ireland as a soon-to-be former climate laggard on the path to redemption, but for the most part, this Government so far has talked the environmental talk without walking the environmental walk.
We’ve heard COP26 be referred to time and time again as the last best hope we have at ensuring a liveable future – and we need to bring that level of urgency home by seeing a robust Climate Action Plan that sees each and every sector pull its weight through the lens of a Just Transition.
And according to the latest polling, we know that the public are very much on board with scaled-up climate ambition right across the board. We owe it to each and every citizen on this island to ensure we have a liveable climate and healthy, thriving ecosystems. 
While this conference is geared towards addressing our climate crisis, we must also recognise that we are in a dual environmental emergency of both our climate and our natural world. We will be carefully going through the Plan once it is published to see if it is able to meet these parallel crises.”
 More information on the COP26 conference taking place in Glasgow over the next two weeks can be found at: https://bit.ly/3mwM4ik
 The full Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on 1.5 degrees of warming is available in full at: https://bit.ly/2ZzONP9
 Agriculture accounts for over a third of our national emissions. The most up-to-date picture of Ireland’s emissions is available at: https://bit.ly/3jUcskO
 The full press release detailing the Environmental Pillar’s departure from the draft Agri-Food Strategy can be found at: https://bit.ly/3tVxQc2
 “Half of people polled feel Ireland should go beyond 51% emissions cut”, The Irish Times 28 October 2021: https://bit.ly/3pPbrOJ