The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said that climate change legislation for Northern Ireland must be based on the appliance of science.

President of the UFU, Victor Chestnutt, addressed a rally attended by 750 farmers at Stormont today (Tuesday, February 1).

The UFU hierarchy said it is deeply concerned that carbon reduction targets espoused by the Green Party could be agreed by the Stormont Assembly later this week.

Such a development, in the view of Victor Chestnutt, could lead to the decimation of Northern Ireland’s livestock sectors.

Farmers demonstrate at Stormont today over proposed climate legislation

Climate legisation

The Green Party proposal, if enacted, would see Northern Ireland securing a 'net zero' carbon status by 2045.

“This measure would destroy our livestock farming sectors,” stressed Chestnutt.

“We would be left with nothing more than a cottage industry. Currently our farming and food industries can feed 10 million people throughout the UK and beyond. This level of output and job creation must be retained in full.”

Significantly, Chestnutt believes that the farming sector can meet what he describes as "realistic climate change targets" moving forward.

He continued: “The farming and food sectors want to see the introduction of realistic climate change legislation now. But it must be driven by science.

"Many of the amendments being proposed by the political groups at Stormont, including the Green Party and Sinn Féin, do not reflect current scientific thinking on how climate change can best be tackled.”

The UFU's preferred climate change targets are those currently contained in the bill being proposed by agriculture minister, Edwin Poots’ bill.

If enacted, this would see Northern Ireland achieving an 82% net carbon reduction by 2050.

Representatives of the UFU addressed a crowd of more than 700 farmers at Stormont today

“These figures were established by the UK’s Committee for Climate Change [CCC]," the union president added.

“So the question is this - why are so many of our politicians failing to recognise the opinions expressed my hundreds of world-leading scientists? I am totally baffled.

"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," Chestnutt said.

“Wiping out our farm businesses is not the way to address climate change. It shouldn't have even become an option to begin with.”

Climate legislation impact

UFU deputy president, David Brown, also addressed the rally at Stormont. Again, he highlighted the absolute importance of Northern Ireland’s climate change legislation reflecting the most up-to-date scientific thinking.

“Once the legislation is in place, there is no going back. The agri sectors in Scotland are already finding this to be the case,” he explained.

“Specifically, the legislation put in place there is shaping almost every aspect of the current legislative process, where farming and food is now concerned.

“And the same will be the case here in Northern Ireland as we look to the future," he said.