UFU to host ‘climate change rally’ at Stormont

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has confirmed that it will host a controlled ‘climate change rally’ on Tuesday morning next (1 February) outside Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

The event is taking place to coincide with the beginning of an Assembly debate on Edwin Poots’ proposed climate change legislation. The bill recently completed its committee stages at Stormont.

A Union spokesperson has confirmed to Farming Life that the UFU has asked a number of members from each local group to attend and represent their area, adding: “This will not be a mass climate change rally. It will be a controlled event to urge our MLAs to vote for the Executive’s Climate Change Bill and not to amend the targets within it.

“The future of our farming industry and rural communities depends on it.”

There is now general acknowledgement that events planned for Stormont next week will be critically important in determining the future shape of the climate change legislation that is finally implemented in Northern Ireland.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “We have serious concerns that when the Executive’s Climate Change Bill is debated by the NI Assembly on 1 February, some will try to completely change the bill, moving it away from the expert advice of the Climate Change Committee, or CCC, who reviewed all the evidence and identified a balanced pathway for NI.

“It’s crucial that MLAs reject targets that have no basis and support the advice of the CCC experts that are contained within the Executive Bill. The future of farming depends on it.

“The climate change targets put forward in the private member’s bill are an outright attack on farming families and rural dwellers, and it’s extremely disheartening that they’re reappearing in amendments for the Executive’s Bill.

“There’s absolutely no justification for this and we’ll continue to exhaust every avenue available to us, to stress that these type of changes to the bill will be the ruination of agriculture and rural communities, having a knock-on effect on the wider NI economy.

“Every job that is linked to farming in some way will be impacted and the manner in which some of our politicians are treating this knowledge, continuing to dismiss the facts, is causing serious distress among our members.”

He added: “There are few people who experience climate change so brutally as farmers. It can be the making or the ruination of critical seasons in the farming calendar, impacting a farm family’s income.

“Not to mention the severe once in a generation weather events that can strike so quickly and cause great devastation to farming land and livestock.

“We farmers want and need to address the global issue as soon as we can. We’re a key part of the climate change solution and need the right legislation to help us do this on farm.”

Chestnutt concluded: “The time for party politics is over. Stormont must follow the CCC experts and get on with finding a way forward that works for all of society including our farmers.

“We know the journey ahead will not be easy, we know we have a big role to play, and change is coming, but we are up for that challenge.

“Wiping out our farm businesses is not the way to address climate change.

“It shouldn’t have even become an option to begin with,” said Mr Chestnutt.

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