Radical Green plan to end Northern Ireland emissions is not proportionate

News Letter editorial of Monday August 16 2021:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

There is a near consensus at home and abroad on the need to combat climate change.

While the exact role of human conduct on global warming is unclear, and while the scale of that warming is in dispute, there is broad agreement that emissions are a major part of the problem and that the climate is changing in ways that are alarming.

Therefore, nations around the world are prepared to act on the precautionary principle. Even massive and ruthless polluters such as China accept in principle the need for a changing approach to energy and to Co2 pollution.

However, while there is broad consensus as to the overall challenge, there is no consensus at all on the speed with which change is feasible.

It is easy to become zealous about the way forward on the environment, particularly in a political culture such as Northern Ireland, when almost nothing seems to have a cost, and where we have become used to vast funding from London. This has sheltered us from having to pay so much as water charges.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has commissioned a report from the consultants KPMG which makes for shocking reading on the plan to make Northern Ireland ‘net zero carbon’ by 2045.

Such a date might sound far away but is in fact only slightly further into the future than the turn of the millennium is in the past. In other words, it is not in fact too far away.

A Green Party bill could lead to 13,000 job losses in the livestock sector and see beef and sheep herd numbers plummet.

The output in the dairy sector would, for example, fall half a billion pounds.

The UFU president Victor Chestnutt has rightly said that farmers and the agri-food sector are willing to play their part in tackling global warming. But, as he also says, the response needs to be proportionate.

This radical Green Party proposal is not so.

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