Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) chief executive Ian Stevenson feels that the Private Members’ Climate Change Bill, recently introduced at Stormont, does not take full account of the role played by livestock production at the heart of Northern Ireland’s economy.

He commented: “The bill calls for Northern Ireland to achieve a ‘net zero carbon’ status by 2045. However, all the research carried out to this point would indicate that such a target could not be achieved without drastically impacting on production agriculture.

“The reality is, that it will be a very significant challenge to reduce carbon-related emissions here in Northern Ireland by up to 82% come 2050, a figure proposed by the UK Climate Change Committee chaired by Lord Deben.

“This target, which recognises the importance of livestock production to Northern Ireland, has been highlighted in recent times by Stormont agriculture minister Edwin Poots.

“Moreover, there has been a general acceptance that Northern Ireland’s attainment of an 82% reduction in carbon-related emissions over the next 29 years will allow the UK, as a whole, to secure its stated aim of achieving a net zero carbon status by 2050," he added.

Emissions reduction in Climate Change Bill

Stevenson said that meeting such an emissions reduction target is going to be extremely challenging.

“To meet this overall 82% reduction target, Lord Deben’s committee concluded that agriculture in Northern Ireland should reduce emissions by 57% by 2050.

“This is a challenging objective, but is one that can aim to be met while still retaining livestock production as a key driver for the farming and food economy here in Northern Ireland."

The LMC representative is confident that the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will introduce its own Climate Change Bill at Stormont in the very near future.

He said: “This bill will, no doubt, take account of the views generated courtesy of the climate change public consultation process undertaken at the end of 2020.

“Farm minister Edwin Poots has already highlighted the 82% reduction target, referenced within Lord Deben’s recommendations, and it is very likely that the Climate Change Committee advice will be a strong influencing factor in the DAERA draft legislation."

LMC cooperation

Stevenson added that the LMC "fully supports" an approach being taken that involves active consultation with relevant parties and policies being designed that are balanced.

Whatever the final emissions’ reduction target will be in Northern Ireland, the LMC chief executive is quick to confirm that agriculture will need meaningful investment and support very soon, to ensure that the industry can, and will, achieve its climate change commitments.

“Improving efficiency at farm level will be very important in this context. But the good news is that research is already pointing the way in terms of how this can be achieved.

“There is also a strong need for all interested parties to work together in making sure these objectives are met, and this includes the membership of Climate Change Coalition NI," Stevenson concluded.