The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has been consistent in its message throughout, stating that we want to see fair and credible legislation for NI based on science and expert advice.
Despite all the evidence presented to them, some politicians do not understand the significant environmental and economic consequences if they are wrong.
The Executive’s Climate Change Bill (No. 2) completed the penultimate stage this week in the NI Assembly. It was the last opportunity to amend the bill and in particular the net zero target by 2050 that had been agreed in the previous stage. The target had caused considerable anxiety among farmers and the agribusiness as the UK’s climate change committee told politicians it was unachievable, “morally wrong” and the only way to Achieving this was to carry out major cattle cuts with adverse consequences. for the entire economy and rural society.
About 100 amendments were submitted to the Bills Office and 70 of them were accepted for debate. Many of them were technical amendments, necessary to “tidy up” the bill, to make it more readable and more functional, and were proposed by the Minister of DAERA.
There were also two key methane amendments that had been proposed in an attempt to prevent the significant damage that the goal of net zero by 2050 would impose on the agricultural sector.
I. The Minister of DAERA has proposed a key amendment to align methane reductions with advice from the Climate Change Committee.
ii. Sinn Féin proposed an amendment on biogenic methane and its link to global temperatures.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) supported both amendments, and the discussions and advice received indicated that they were complementary to each other. However, only hours before the start of the debate, the President decided that these proposals were mutually exclusive, that is to say that if one was supported, the other would not be put to the vote.
During the debate, it was clear that there was general support for agriculture and rural communities from the majority of parties, including the DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP and TUV, and the need to somewhat protect the sector from net zero by 2050. . When the First Amendment was put to the vote, it passed over objections from the Greens and the Alliance Party and as a result Sinn Fein’s amendment automatically fell as it was deemed mutually exclusive.
The Executive’s Climate Change Bill now has a separate target for methane to be no more than 46% below the 1990 baseline. In effect, this brings the bill back into line with advice of the Committee on Climate Change and is in line with the advice of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The separate methane target will protect and preserve the global net zero goal, while ensuring that the levels of methane reduction required are in line with expert advice and guidance. In doing so, it will help provide some degree of protection to the agricultural sector without limiting overall climate ambition.
This is still a very ambitious goal and despite what some might claim, farmers have by no means been spared. Changes will need to be made to agriculture to achieve this goal, but backed by science and expert advice, this is more achievable.
The executive’s climate change bill will now move into the ‘final stage’ next week. A final debate on the bill will take place on March 8, but MPs cannot make amendments at this stage and will vote whether or not to pass the bill. If passed, the bill will become law and departments will need to align policies to ensure they are compatible and begin to meet the targets.
What about the private member’s bill?
Clare Bailey’s private member’s bill, with the goal of net zero by 2045, is also set to begin the “review phase” on March 8. This is concerning as it still poses a significant threat to the industry and needs to be stopped. It would seem foolish to let the consideration stage of this bill advance when it is a similar bill and because the NI Assembly is struggling to find time in its schedule to deal with business before the end of the current mandate (March 28) .
The UFU will continue to press to ensure this bill does not become law and to urge MPs to follow the science and expert advice given to them, in order to deliver fair goals and legislation. and credible to the whole of NI.