Edwin Poots: Stormont climate bill change would have ‘negative impact’ on farming, says would-be DUP leader

Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has formally come out in opposition to an Assembly climate change bill, claiming it would have “a negative impact” on Northern Ireland farming.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 2:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 4:07 pm

On Tuesday MLAs agreed to move Northern Ireland’s first ever climate bill to the next stage, by 58 votes to 29.

The bill aims for NI to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. It was backed by Sinn Fein, Alliance, the UUP and the Green Party but opposed by the DUP and TUV.

Mr Poots issued a formal statement as agriculture minister today in opposition to the bill.

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DUP MLA Edwin Poots pictured at Stormont in east Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

He said: “The Private Members’ Bill has passed its second reading without any regard to either the long term sustainability of our hard-working agri-food sector, nor the long term achievability of the environmental targets and commitments contained within the Bill.

“This Bill will not only have a negative impact on our rural community, it will also have a negative impact on the environment – as unachievable deadlines and unreasonable demands will disengage the very people who are a part of the solution to this issue, our farmers. We must get full buy-in and face this challenge collectively.”

Among his “major concerns” about the bill, he said, are the net zero emissions target by 2045; The lack of evidence and impact assessments from the drafters of the bill; The apparent disregard for expert advice from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC); The lack of consultation; The significant costs to the public purse from implementing the bill, which he said would push NI emissions overseas rather than contributing to net reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Poots said the UK’s CCC has “categorically stated” that a net zero target by 2050 for Northern Ireland - covering all greenhouse gases - cannot credibly be set at this time.

He added that the CCC has advised that a target of reducing net emissions by least 82% is appropriate and fair, and aligns with the UK’s commitment to the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Green Party was invited to respond to his comments.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said it was also disappointed by the assembly vote on the bill.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “We have constantly reiterated that the UFU supports climate change legislation and the need to tackle emissions from agriculture, but proposals must be fair and credible and backed by evidence – at the present time, this climate change Private Member’s Bill does none of these things.”

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