‘There is no point setting a target that is not possible to meet’ - Barton

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton has said those who voted in favour of an amendment to include Net Zero in the executive’s bill are ‘not being realistic, not listening to expert advice and are attempting to kill off the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland’.

Mrs Barton, who sits on the assembly’s agriculture committee, said: “I understand, support and acknowledge the importance of climate change legislation and the need to reduce emissions, but any regulations must have an evidence base and be fair and practical to everyone in Northern Ireland, including the agricultural sector and business community.

“I note the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), which has used a significant level of research and evidence base, along with the panel of experts on the subject has recommended that any climate legislation for Northern Ireland include a target to reduce all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 82 per cent by 2050 as part of a fair contribution to the UK Net Zero target in 2050 and our international obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

The CCC further stated: “At this time, our assessment is that a Net Zero target covering all GHGs cannot credibly be set for Northern Ireland.

Rosemary Barton MLA

Advertisement

“A larger reduction in output from Northern Ireland’s livestock sector compared to the rest of the UK.

“Even our most stretching Tailwinds scenario – which entails a 50 per cent fall in meat and dairy production in Northern Ireland by 2050 and significantly greater levels of tree planting on the land released – is not enough to get Northern Ireland to Net Zero emissions in 2050…This would simply shift emissions overseas.

“Going too fast, and in particular aiming to decarbonise significantly faster than the rest of the UK, also poses several risks:

“Setting emissions reduction targets that are too ambitious to be delivered can undermine their credibility.

Advertisement

“Going beyond the natural rate of stock turnover would lead to premature scrappage of assets (e.g. vehicles, boilers).

“This may be costly, risks undermining popular support for transition, and could cause increased embedded emissions.”

Mrs Barton continued: “Given this significant evidence from the CCC the 82 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 appears to be a reasoned target for Northern Ireland to aim for.

“The standards of food production in Northern Ireland are excellent, the last thing we want to do is to import goods from elsewhere, particularly those with lower safety and welfare standards.

Advertisement

“The government must not allow food importation from countries that are not meeting the same production standards as there is in the UK.

“With considerable reduction in local food production that these proposals would result with, a significant increase in food imports is predictable.”

She added: “The carbon footprint in the UK is one of the lowest in the world, with increased imports from other countries this would significantly increase this carbon footprint, resulting with a very negative impact on climate change.

“Yesterday’s decision is to implement a Northern Ireland net-zero carbon position by the year 2050.

Advertisement

“While this is a very commendable aspiration, the difficulty is that it doesn’t provide any details of how that target will be reached or achieved and doesn’t have any expert assessment or analysis.

“There is no point setting a target that research clearly says is not possible to meet,” Mrs Barton concluded.