Do farmers own the carbon that is sequestered on their land? And have they the right to trade that carbon?

There is a definite absence of clarity when it comes to answering both of these questions.

Take, for example, what the Department of Agriculture secretary general Brendan Gleeson told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture recently.

He insisted that the State did not claim to own carbon credits, but it had to account for any emissions reductions in the national inventory to comply with its international obligations under the various climate change treaties.

Gleeson went on to say that farmers had the right to trade carbon credits, but he pointed out that the State had yet to establish a framework to facilitate such a trade.

The secretary general’s comments brought zero clarity to the debate around the ownership and trading of carbon credits.

Indeed, the phrase ‘clear as mud’ came to mind. Even less clarity was forthcoming when this newspaper sought information from the Department of Agriculture on the matter.

The good people in Agriculture House hand-passed the query as quick as you like to the Department of the Environment and Climate Change.

Then, the Department of the Environment blasted the ball right back at the good lads and lassies in Kildare Street.

In its reply to a reporter from this house, the Department of the Environment stated: “The Climate Action Plans 2021 to 2024 include a commitment for the Government to develop an enabling framework to facilitate the development of a carbon farming initiative in Ireland.”

To address this commitment, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has convened a Carbon Farming Working Group.


“This group initially draws on expertise from across semi-State and governmental Departments to explore opportunities for the development of practices which encourage the removal of carbon in line with developments at EU level.

“This would look at encouraging reductions in emissions and at the same time develop a potential alternative source of income for landowners and foresters.”

Armed with this information, the reporter went back to the Department of Agriculture and asked if the Carbon Farming Working Group had been established, who was on the group and when will it publish its findings?

Sadly, the Department of Agriculture has not as yet answered these queries.

Meanwhile, private enterprise is taking advantage of Government inertia on this matter to launch carbon trading schemes which offer lucrative rewards to landowners.

The companies involved maintain these deals are kosher, and we have to take them at their word.

It’s time for the various Government departments to stop hand-passing queries and provide people with real guidance on the ownership and trading of carbon credits.