UFU responds to 2050 Net Zero target - ‘We are not down and out’

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has voiced its ‘deep disappointment’ following the outcome of yesterday’s vote in the assembly.
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UFU president, Victor Chestnutt, commented: “This Net Zero target of 2050 goes against the advice of the experts on the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

“They originally highlighted that it was not achievable for Northern Ireland and would result in, at least, a 50 per cent reduction in livestock numbers here.

“We need to stop global warming, but a Net Zero target will not do this.

“It is unrealistic and can only be met by cutting livestock numbers on local farms, and even by doing that, it would still not solve climate change.

“Instead, it will export our food production overseas to meet consumer demand for meat and dairy products, where emissions are higher and standards are lower.”

Mr Chestnutt continued: “113,000 jobs in the agri food sector will become vulnerable overnight if this Net Zero target of 2050 becomes legislation.

“Every single job that is linked to farming in some way will be impacted, as well as jobs in rural areas that depend on business from agri food workers.

Jobs are needed to sustain rural communities.

“Rural jobs are all connected together and most of these are underpinned by farming, but this Net Zero target by 2050 has just laid them all on the line.

“We exhausted every avenue available to us in advance of the debate today.

“Conducting various meetings with MLAs, organising on-farm visits so our farmers could voice their concerns directly with their local politicians, and commissioning KPMG to conduct the economic impact assessment on the far-reaching consequence of the Private Member’s Bill (PMB) on agriculture and rural communities.

“Yet, local MLAs have worked to their own agenda.

“They have undermined expert advice thinking they know better, supporting a target that will be the ruination of agriculture and will tear the very fabric of rural communities apart.”

The UFU president said there are “no guarantees” that the other protections put forward by MLAs will be enough.

“Promises of a ‘just transition’ and a ‘just transition fund for agriculture’ mean nothing,” he added.

“It’s not a just transition when a target has been set that goes against expert advice.

“It begs the question, why would the UK government give NI extra money to meet climate targets that they continually advised us not to set?

“There is still a long way to go to get appropriate climate change legislation in place, one that works for everyone in society.

“We did not get the outcome we wanted, it is a severe setback, but we are not down and out.

“We will continue to work effortlessly, engaging with all MLAs to find a solution that works for farming, securing a bright future.

“One where we can continue to produce food to world leading standards for the nation in a sustainable way.

“We commend all our members who took time away from their farm business yesterday, to help us lobby local MLAs at Stormont.

“We are invigorated with the support we received from farmers across NI’s political divide, including those from businesses and the wider agri-food sector, and we may need that immense support again.

“Now, we urge MLAs to think again when this bill comes back to the assembly for further consideration at the next stage, and for the many that supported the Net Zero target, but made a commitment to us that they would ensure nothing would be done that would harm agriculture or reduce livestock numbers, to deliver on their promise!” he ended.