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Off-loading the costs of climate action onto others

by Frank Schnittger Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 11:06:15 AM EST

One of the privileges of going to university is that you get to know some very interesting people. One such is Alan Matthews, now professor emeritus of European agricultural policy at Trinity College Dublin. In an industry noted for its short-sighted self interest, his work shone a light on the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on third world producers faced with the price impact of large quantities of subsidised European exports being dumped on their markets.

European farmers were being subsidised to over-produce, and their surplus product was off-loaded onto third world countries with European taxpayers and third world producers facing the cost. Farmers are not alone, of course, in seeking to off-load the costs of their income and production methods onto others, but the report which the Irish Farmers Journal commissioned from consultants KPMG is a classic of the genre of ensuring a supposedly independent report only asks the questions they wanted asked.

Alan Matthew's de-construction of the report is also a classic of critical analysis, and deservers to be read in full.


In Summary, the KPMG report:

  1. Quantifies the production and employment effects of particular emissions reduction scenarios and and doesn't ask how agriculture might achieve these emissions reductions with minimum impacts on the level of output and income.

  2. The report assumes that farmers will remain totally passive in response to the projected reductions in output. and that prices would be unaffected. But fewer cattle and less milk produced would mean meat factories and dairies competing for more limited supplies and thus higher prices for farmers, which would offset some of the loss in income it foresees

  3. No allowance is made for the potential for diversification and assumes that farmers will not seek opportunities in forestry, bioenergy, organic production, or alternative enterprises if ruminant agriculture is reduced.

  4. Significantly, the report makes no attempt to estimate the impact of providing the necessary incentive framework to reduce agricultural emissions. Farmers are well aware of the damage these emissions cause, but it is someone else's problem. To solve the emissions problem, the cost of these emissions, as well as the benefits of reducing them, need to be factored into each farmer's financial planning.

  5. Some years ago, the Citizens' Assembly voted overwhelmingly to recommend the introduction of a levy/rebate scheme whereby emissions would be taxed, and the proceeds recycled to support farmers to farm in less emission-intensive ways. The proposal was dismissed by the political establishment and the leaders of the main farm organisations, but existing schemes have been ineffective.

  6. The KPMG report overlooks the fact that putting a proper incentive scheme in place at farm level would unleash a wave of innovation as farmers, coops, input suppliers and the research establishment see the benefits of focusing on emissions reduction, where today there is no individual benefit to taking action.

  7. The KPMG report also ignores the co-benefits from ambitious climate action. Agriculture not only faces the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Current levels of output are also associated with unprecedented biodiversity loss, deteriorating water quality, and levels of ammonia emissions that exceed legal limits.

  8. There is also a cost to inaction. Ireland already fails to meet its EU climate targets and will continue to do so if agricultural emissions are not reduced. This will require considerable tax expenditure on an annual basis to purchase allowances from other EU countries to bring ourselves into compliance, funding that could be used to promote the green transition at home.

  9. The KPMG report should not be used to delay the urgent action to reduce agricultural emissions. Its real message is the need to properly price emissions at farm level so that farmers are incentivised to take the necessary actions to avoid the most severe scenarios that it projects.

(The above largely quotes from the article, edited for brevity).


It is not a new phenomenon for a lobby group to ask the questions it wants answered and to seeks to off-load the costs of inaction onto taxpayers and the general public. This KPMG report is a classic of the genre, as is Professor Matthew's deconstruction of it.

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A chara,- it is not unusual for a lobby group to commission an "independent" report which only asks the questions they want asked and conveniently ignores other far more pertinent questions. The KPMG report commissioned by the Irish Farmer's Journal is a classic of the genre, as is Professor Alan Matthew's deconstruction of it: (Opinion, 1st. November).

In summary, he notes that the report only quantifies the production and employment effects of particular emissions reduction scenarios and and doesn't ask how agriculture might achieve these emissions reductions with minimum impacts on the level of output and income.

The report assumes that farmers will remain totally passive in response to the projected reductions in output and that prices would be unaffected. He notes that fewer cattle and less milk produced would mean meat factories and dairies competing for more limited supplies and thus higher prices for farmers, which would offset some of the loss in income it foresees.

The report assumes that farmers will not seek opportunities in forestry, bioenergy, organic production, or alternative enterprises if ruminant agriculture is reduced, and ignores the co-benefits of reducing biodiversity loss, deteriorating water quality, and ammonia emissions.

Farmers are well aware of the damage these emissions cause, but it is someone else's problem. To solve the emissions problem, the cost of these emissions, as well as the benefits of reducing them, need to be factored into each farmer's financial planning.

The report overlooks is the fact that putting a proper incentive scheme in place at farm level would unleash a wave of innovation as farmers, coops, input suppliers and the research establishment see the benefits of focusing on emissions reduction, where today there is no benefit to taking action,

The report assumes taxpayers will be happy to fund the  purchase of greenhouse gas allowances from other EU countries to bring ourselves into compliance with our emissions targets using funds that could be better targetted at reducing emissions in the first place!

Allowing special interests to avoid essential and urgent climate actions through false pleading, utter complacency, and displacing the costs of inaction onto others is no longer an option. The KPMG report should be shelved immediately and Professor Mathews recommendations implemented.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 11:41:37 AM EST
Oops - the above is a draft letter to the editor.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 11:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you so quick in converting the material into a letter to the editor that you forget to note that you are doing it? :)
by fjallstrom on Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 12:58:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Second nature at this stage. I'm reminded of the old kerryman joke about the guy who wrote  a long letter home to his mum because he didn't have to write a short one. I can only write a short version after I have digested a longer version of the screed.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 01:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another side effect is that the subsidized 1st world food sold at prices that undercuts the farmers in the 3rd world causes them to go broke and want to immigrate to the 1st world. Basic cause of the US "illegal immigration" problem.
by asdf on Mon Nov 1st, 2021 at 03:50:08 PM EST
See also: New Zealand, where agriculture is our biggest polluter, yet has evaded emissions reduction policies for nearly 20 years (while increasing its emissions by nearly 20%), and produces regular reports claiming that their industry (and the country) will be bankrupted if they're required to do anything. Though now they're getting into increasingly fringe theories - GWP*, denial that methane causes warming, opposition to reforestation, credit for soil carbon from grass - to justify their inaction, while threatening to invade towns in the middle of a pandemic next month over policies which might finally limit their pollution.
by IdiotSavant on Tue Nov 2nd, 2021 at 01:30:41 AM EST
Arthur Anderson created the sword upon which they impaled themselves with Enron. Would that a similar fate befall KPMG.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Nov 2nd, 2021 at 03:25:33 PM EST
They really are guns for hire, creating low quality research work for high fees to bolster someone's pre-existing agenda.  Why the media still give them any credibility is beyond me.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 2nd, 2021 at 09:10:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Arthur Anderson is ded, smote by Enron
You may be thinking of Accenture?
by Cat on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 at 08:04:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 at 10:30:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate change and future of farming
Sir, - I refer to the opinion piece by Prof Alan Matthews headlined "Farmers need the right incentives to reduce emissions" (Opinion, November 1st).

Within the article he makes specific reference to a report commissioned by the Irish Farmers Journal into the impact of sectoral emissions reduction targets for agriculture.

Nowhere does the report, produced by KPMG, state that the Government should delay the urgent action to reduce agricultural emissions. To suggest otherwise is merely an attempt to distract from the findings of the report.

The purpose of the KPMG analysis was to demonstrate the significant financial impact that sectoral emissions targets could have on farm incomes and the rural economy within the current policy framework.

The findings show that if the Government sets an emissions reduction target beyond the scope of existing technologies, then it must also come forward with a new policy and financial framework that delivers a just transition for farmers and rural communities.

We cannot expect farmers to accept an emission reduction target that could devastate their income in the hope of some new revenue stream emerging over time.

- Yours, etc,

JUSTIN McCARTHY,

Editor and CEO,

Irish Farmers Journal.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 at 08:38:13 AM EST
Excellent project Green Energy in solidarity with farming ...

Energy positive: how Denmark's Samsø island switched to zero carbon

by Oui on Wed Nov 3rd, 2021 at 10:30:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a new trend in the climate alarmist community: don't be an alarmist. Apparently the idea is that by talking about climate change, you can change minds and hope to avert catastrophe. It is said to be a better approach than pointing out disaster scenarios all the time.

I'm not sure I'm convinced.

by asdf on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 04:04:26 PM EST


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