A new initiative to help tackle carbon emissions within the dairy sector in Northern Ireland (NI) has been launched by agriculture and environment minister, Edwin Poots.

The voluntary programme of carbon benchmarks on Business Development Group (BDG) dairy farms will start in 2022.

This dairy carbon audits programme has been established in conjunction with dairy companies, led by the the Dairy Council Northern Ireland and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) according to Minister Poots.

From next year, BDG dairy farmers in NI can take part in the programme, which will enhance our understanding of carbon emissions within the sector and how to reduce them.”

He added that the carbon audits align with the Green Growth Strategy which the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is progressing on behalf of the Executive.

“Green growth means using the move from a high to a low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions society to improve people’s quality of life through green jobs and a clean, resilient environment.

"And that is exactly what we intend to do. The consultation period on the draft strategy remains open until December 21, 2021 and I would encourage everyone to take part," he said.

CEO of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, Dr. Mike Johnston, said:

“This is an important industry initiative to better understand the source and extent of emissions on dairy farms. There are a number of reasons why these carbon audits need to happen.

First, if we are to reduce our carbon footprint we need to measure emissions. Second, our customers are asking for information on the level of emissions and what measures are being taken to reduce these. And third, we need baseline data to provide proof as to the sustainability of family-run dairy farms in NI,” explained Dr. Johnston.

“I would emphasise that this is an industry initiative and, although voluntary, I would encourage all members of BDGs to participate. I can assure all dairy farmers that the information collected about their farm will be confidential and will not be available to the Dairy Council, DAERA or dairy processors," he said.

Ulster Farmer Union (UFU) deputy president, David Brown said:

"The UFU welcomes the further roll out of carbon audits on farms. There are already many farms across NI undertaking this work through various initiatives and it is positive to see the dairy industry now committing to carbon audits.

"This will be vital to help the industry understand the baselines and drive improvements in our efforts to mitigate climate change. We would encourage every farmer who is offered the opportunity to take up the offer to learn more about their farm’s carbon footprint.”