Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Declan McAleer has welcomed the acceptance by Stormont of an amendment to proposed climate change legislation for Northern Ireland yesterday (Monday, February 28).

This amendment will see a strong focus on biogenic methane levels referenced within it.

“The amendment actually voted on was that proposed by farm minister Edwin Poots," McAleer said.

“Given that the Sinn Féin amendment was adjudged by the Clerk of the Assembly to be mutually exclusive of it, a second vote was not required.”

According to McAleer, the climate change bill recognises the needs of the farming and food sectors in a totally holistic manner.

“Our status is now fully compliant with both the UK’s Committee on Climate Change and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” he said.

"Specifically, the agreed amendment will see methane levels fall to 46% from their 1990 levels by 2050.

“This gives the farming and food sectors the scope that they need moving forward,” stressed McAleer.

“The new legislation will also allow farmers in the north to fully embrace the new climate change-related technologies that are coming down the track.

“Specifically, where methane is concerned, we already know that feed additives are now available, which can act to reduce the levels of the gas emitted by ruminant animals by up to 30%.

“And there is no doubt that additional scientific breakthroughs will be forthcoming during the period ahead," McAleer said.

“The final climate change bill will still commit Northern Ireland as a whole to a carbon net zero position by 2050. However, there is now clear evidence that new science will play a major role in getting us there. “

'Huge relief'

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said there is huge relief among the farming community in the wake of the Stormont vote.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said:

"Following the further consideration stage, our farmers are utterly relieved that a separate methane target has been supported by MLAs, bringing us back in line with the Climate Change Committee's balanced pathway for agriculture.

“This is still a very ambitious target to have within the Executive's Climate Change Bill.

“Farmers have not been let of the hook by any means.

"Big changes will be required of agriculture to meet it, but supported by science and expert advice, our farmers are well up for that challenge and are eager to get to work on combating emissions," he continued.

"Over the last few weeks our farmers were put in a very unfair situation, having to deal with frustration and anxiety over a net zero target and the potential detrimental impact it would have on the farming industry; all of which could have been avoided.

“However, the main thing is that local politicians listened to farmers' concerns and made the right decisions in the end when it mattered most.”