Taoiseach Enda Kenny said financial challenges will prevent Ireland from making deep cuts in emissions from the agriculture sector to help fight climate change.

Kenny blamed a “lost decade” of recession and “unrealistic” targets set by the European Union (EU) for Ireland’s difficulties in grappling with greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector.

He told the COP21 global summit – the 21st annual climate conference – in Paris that Ireland would need “time and space” to deal with meeting stringent EU targets of a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Kenny spelt out Ireland’s challenge to meet climate change goals while maintaining its position as a producer of high quality food.

The 11-day event hosted by France and the United Nations hopes to get a legally binding agreement to limit global warning for the first time.

Representatives from 193 countries are attending, including President Barack Obama. National leaders made speeches filled with pledges, aspirations and warnings. While their speeches gave a good indication of where each country stands in its attitude to tackling climate change, the real work will take place over the coming days.

Kenny said in his three-minute speech on Monday that Ireland supported the aim of creating a legally binding agreement on climate change.

“Ireland’s national long-term vision is presented in climate legislation, which sets out our intention to substantially cut CO2 emissions by 2050, while developing an approach towards carbon neutrality in the land sector that does not compromise our capacity for food production,” he said.

Earlier, he told reporters that he blamed Ireland’s difficulties in meeting targets in agriculture on a “lost decade” which he said was created by recession caused by the previous government. That had resulted in few resources being available to invest in climate change research and infrastructure.

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He also said the targets set by the EU Commission for 2030, which called for a 20 percent reduction of emissions compared with 2005 levels, were “unrealistic” and “unreachable.”

Kenny denied Ireland is seeking “wiggle room” on the vital sector of agriculture. Rather, he said that when the EU Commission set the 2030 target it had overestimated what agriculture could achieve in terms of curbing emissions.

UN special envoy on climate change, former Irish president Mary Robinson refused to be drawn on Ireland’s policy stance, saying she did not like to talk specifically on a political matter.

“I always want every country including Ireland to be more ambitious. There is room for improvement and I do hope this conference will help,” Robinson said.

An estimated 2,800 armed police were at the conference site and also stationed at hotels located near the venue, conducting security sweeps and keeping traffic moving.

French President Francois Hollande (left) greets Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the COP21 summit in Paris on Monday.Irish Voice