‘Climate Change Bill could decimate NI agriculture’

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and DAERA Committee member William Irwin MLA said over-ambitious climate change targets present a significant threat to farming, an industry he termed “an economic success story for Northern Ireland.”

Mr Irwin was referring to ongoing discussions centred around the Climate Change Bill being tabled by the Green Party that seeks to legally bind Northern Ireland to net zero carbon by 2045.

Mr Irwin said: “Very important points are being missed in this entire debate and it is something that I have genuine concerns about. Agri-food is one of Northern Ireland’s highest economic performers and accounts for significant employment as an industry sector. That is why any plans and targets set must be achievable but also must not be detrimental to Northern Ireland’s economic outlook. The Bill would see huge cuts to livestock numbers in Northern Ireland something that would be disastrous for farmers and the wider agri-food sector right across the Province.”

He added: “Whilst the merits around carbon reduction are undisputed, there is considerable anxiety amongst industry representatives I speak to about the Green Party Bill and indeed the aspirations amongst other parties to reduce the time frame still further. The fact that significant cuts to output in Northern Ireland would be inevitable following such a path, seems of no consequence to those proposing these radical timetables and targets.

“What is also important with such an over ambitious policy is the fact that agriculture would be squeezed severely on all sides and there would be a significant risk of gaps being filled by product from countries with poorer climate targets, animal welfare standards and traceability. It seems in the bizarre race to zero these key factors are not considered important.”

He concluded: “The route that Minister Poots is pursuing is of course much more realistic and crucially is in line with the expert input of the UK Climate Change Committee. The Minister is bringing forward DAERA legislation and he understands what is at stake and the various risks that are presenting to the agri-food industry. It is concerning that this same level of understanding is not being displayed by those intent on pursuing much higher targets in much less a timeframe. I will continue to input the views of the farming community to this crucial debate.”