MLAs asked to give overview of climate proposals

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has written to Northern Ireland (NI) MLAs who co-signed the Private Members’ Climate Change Bill, inviting them to discuss the proposals with the UFU environment committee.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 7:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 8:26 am

UFU president Victor Chestnutt commented: “Following the support that was given by some MLAs for Clare Bailey’s Climate Change Bill, it is vital that they provide an overview of the proposals and have a discussion with our environment committee about what exactly it will mean for NI agriculture.

“It’s essential that the right legislation is put in place with the correct targets that supports the agri-food sector in its entirety, to continue tackling climate change without restricting or lessening farmers’ ability to produce high-quality food to world leading standards. Produce that consumers expect.”

The UK government independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) chaired by Lord Deben, said that NI needs to contribute fairly to the UK’s Net Zero by 2050 target.

An 82 percent reduction in emissions from all of NI by 2050 was recommended to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots.

The UFU said this will still be very challenging for agriculture yet ‘surprisingly’, it seems like this advice has been ignored by some local MLAs which could be to the detriment of agriculture.
To meet the target of 82 percent, CCC outlined that NI agriculture should reduce emissions by 57 percent by 2050. In the CCC advice, 46 percent of land will need to be freed up from livestock farming through changes in output and more efficient farming. The land will then be released for forestry, agro-forestry, restored peatland and energy crops.

Victor Chestnutt continued: “From the recommendations of the CCC, it is clear that in order to meet an 82 percent reduction by 2050, major changes within NI agriculture will be needed which is extremely concerning.

“However, to meet net zero by 2045, an even more challenging target proposed by the Green Party, SDLP, UUP, Alliance and Sinn Fein, we can expect massive change across our sector including the possibility of a significant reduction in livestock numbers.

“It is time for these parties to explain to our members their reasoning for moving away from independent advice and the potential threat to thousands of jobs across NI.”

“It’s important to remember that NI consumers still want to eat meat and dairy. Unless the demand for those product falls, removing livestock farming from NI would simply result in the importation of dairy and meat from other regions where emissions are higher due to lower environmental standards. We would simply be exporting our environmental problems to those countries - which is also known as carbon leakage - with no benefit whatsoever to global warming and is totally unacceptable.”
NI’s farming industry is committed to lowering emissions further and the UFU says it’s vital that farmers’ efforts are supported by new legislation that supports a balanced pathway to net zero.

The UFU president further explained: “The effect of climate change has a significant impact on farmers across the globe including here in NI. They’re at the mercy of extreme weather events and it’s in our members interests to address this worldwide issue. We accept that a percentage of greenhouse gases are emitted during the course of food production and that emissions from agriculture must be reduced as well as measuring and enhancing carbon sequestration on our farms. However, there must be a balanced and just transition for local farmers.
“Many of our farmers have already taken steps to tackle climate change and good progress in reducing emissions on our NI farms has been made to date. On-farm carbon sequestration needs to be properly recognised, accounted and rewarded. We know there is room for more improvement and we want to capitalise on this.”

He concluded: “However, the legislation is going to be a critical aspect. It needs to support our farmers enabling them to continue reducing on-farm emissions without diminishing our industry and impacting negatively on local food production.”