Farmers and their farm businesses must be considered part of the solution when it comes to tackling climate change, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has said.
The comments were made as the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) published its UK ‘net zero’ target report.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a huge challenge for NI agriculture but we are up for it. There have already been gains with the dairy sector reducing its carbon intensity by 30 per cent since 1990. Productive and efficient agriculture needs to be recognised as part of the solution.”
The UFU says it is crucial that in its bid to tackle climate change the UK does not export food production, and as a result emissions, to countries with lower environmental standards or ambition to tackle this important issue.
“Hindering domestic food production is not the way to address climate change. In the UK, 65 per cent of farmland is best suited to grazing animals. The extensive nature of grass based farming in Northern Ireland means we are already largely green by nature. Grass fed suckler herds help to manage many habitats and produce a quality product from land that is unable to produce other crops. Grassland, farmland hedges and trees are also crucial for carbon sequestration,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU has been part of Northern Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Industry Partnership since its inception almost 10 years ago and has been working to deliver the targets set out in the strategy.
“We continue to be an integral member of this industry partnership which was set up to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from our sector. Farmers are committed to tackling greenhouse gas emissions through improving production efficiencies and encouraging carbon capture,” said Mr Ferguson.
Producing more renewable energy has been identified as another way to tackle climate change, however, farmers in Northern Ireland are wary following the RHI fiasco.
“The incompetence of civil servants and government have left many legitimate users paying the price. The RHI scandal has been a major blow for the industry and set us back when it comes to renewables,” said the UFU president.