Climate change concerns raised

Alderman Ryan McCready met with Victor Chestnutt, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, and their members in Park Village, Co. Londonderry last Friday to discuss Climate Change legislation, their concerns and proposed solutions.

Alderman McCready said: “I found all the farmers I spoke to were glad to have the opportunity to express their concerns and to discuss solutions. I also very much welcomed the opportunity to speak to them. I support their efforts thus far in trying to make their farms part of the solution and not the problem.

“They told me that if the Private Members Bill proposed by Clare Bailey of The Green Party is allowed through with no amendments it would have serious consequences on their industry. They told me that implementing the net zero target by 2045 would result in cutting the numbers of cattle and sheep by 86% and numbers of dairy cows would be reduced to levels last seen in 1947.

“The agri-food industry in Northern Ireland supports around 113,000 jobs and feeds around 10 million people and is a key part of the Northern Ireland economy. Livestock reductions of this scale could decimate the agri-food sector and rural communities in Northern Ireland, adding to the ongoing mental health issues due to lone and isolated farmers, and also adding to the universal credit bill, due to rising unemployment this would cause.

“I made clear that the Ulster Unionist Party supports the proposal put forward by the UK`s independent Climate Change Committee for a reduction in carbon emissions of at least 82% by 2050. This is a more realistic target.

“The farmers that I spoke to showed their willingness to embrace new technologies, helping the industry move towards net zero, but they felt they were not being given enough time to have these developed and rolled out. One farmer told me that he is a farmer, but also a passionate environmentalist, and that they are often an easy target to blame climate change on. Northern Ireland farmers are amongst the most carbon efficient producers in the world,” said Alderman McCready.

“Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom without climate change legislation and it would be best if Clare Bailey and DAERA Minister Edwin Poots would work together to amalgamate their two bills. Time is short before the current Assembly mandate ends and it is crucial that Northern Ireland is not left further behind by not getting legislation in place before the next Assembly elections.

“I would ask farmers in the local Foyle and surrounding areas to let me know their concerns in the next few weeks. I would also like to meet with young farmers. My door is always open and I look forward to having more discussions.”