‘Need for certainty’ as NI Assembly prepares to discuss both climate change bills

As the Northern Ireland Assembly prepares to meet next week to discuss both climate change bills, the agri-food sector has highlighted the need for certainty on legislation.

On Tuesday 8 March, the executive’s Climate change Bill (No. 2) will undergo the ‘final stage’.

MLAs will vote on whether or not to pass the bill and, if supported, it will become law.

However, Clare Bailey’s Private Member’s Bill (No.1) will start the ‘consideration stage’ on that date also.

Commenting on the matter, UFU president, Victor Chestnutt, stated: “During the recent debate on the executive’s Climate Change Bill, we were pleased that most parties, namely the SDLP, SF, UUP, DUP and TUV, all spoke in favour of farmers and supported a methane amendment.

“A separate target for methane has now been officially added to the bill, which is key to ensuring the protection of our rural communities.

“It will allow the agriculture sector to play a full part in achieving the overall climate change ambition, but it must be recognised that it still requires big changes on-farm.

“The enormity of the challenge facing farmers should not be underestimated, however, supported by science and expert advice, this target is more achievable.”

Mr Chestnutt described it as “critical” that the executive bill gets over the line next week, giving certainty to members going forward.

He continued: “There is a strong recognition from farmers that climate change legislation is needed, and they’re eager to get to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“However, forcing farmers to deliver on targets that are over and beyond expert advice is totally unacceptable, especially when it’s undeniably clear that the impacts will be hugely significant.

“The detrimental consequences that net zero targets would have on our sector, economy and rural communities have been widely documented.

“Yet, some still want to push through this hard-line approach despite being warned that it will have no positive impact on global warming mainly due to carbon leakage.”

Speaking on behalf of industry representatives, Dr. Mike Johnston, chief executive of Dairy Council NI, said: “While we welcome the support by the majority of MLAs for methane amendments, we now need them to follow through and ensure the executive’s Climate Change Bill passes through the final stage next week to become law.”

Dr. Johnston said it is “extremely worrying” that the Private Member’s Bill is still making its way through the legislative system.

“It seems senseless when we now have a bill that can deliver for climate change and everyone in society, and also considering the time pressures on the NI Assembly as we move towards the end of the mandate,” he commented.

“Our agri-food industry has been through the mill on the climate change debate and it’s time for a line to be drawn under it, allowing us all to move forward so we can tackle global warming with the right legislative framework based on science and expert advice.

“We urge MLAs to support the executive’s Climate Change Bill and to focus the remaining NI Assembly time on other matters rather than regurgitating climate change issues with the Private Member’s Bill.

“The agri-food sector is part of the climate change solution.

“We will play our part in delivering for the environment and economy while continuing to provide high-quality, sustainable food for our consumers at home and around the world.

“The executive’s Climate Change Bill will support us in doing this,” Dr. Johnston concluded.