Alarm in Northern Ireland as agriculture minister warns 50% reduction in meat production ‘not enough’ to meet climate targets

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has expressed alarm about climate change information shared by the agriculture minister at the Northern Ireland (NI) Assembly on 13 April.

In response to questions on climate change, the DAERA minister Edwin Poots said independent experts on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have stated that  a 50% reduction in meat and dairy production and a significantly greater amount of tree planting in NI would not be enough to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Understanding the difficulties associated with trying to achieve net zero by 2050 in NI and in line with the advice of the CCC, the DAERA Minister is proposing an 82 percent reduction in emissions in NI by 2050. However, this will still be very challenging for agriculture.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said he was “gobsmacked”, especially as momentum is gathering among local political parties to commit in law to net zero by 2045. He said some politicians seemed “intent on destroying one of our most successful industries”.

“We accept that our farmers must take action to reduce emissions and we have reiterated on numerous occasions that as a key part of the climate change solution, our members are committed to doing all they can to address the issue – especially when it impacts them so significantly.

“The agri-food industry will do everything it can to reduce emissions and work towards net zero while producing high-quality food but we cannot accept bad legislation that could wipe out half of our livestock farmers just to meet a legislative target that does not seem to have any scientific basis. 

“This isn’t about the economy versus the environment, this is about tackling a real problem in a balanced and sustainable way. If we were to do otherwise, we would simply be exporting our industry overseas with no benefit whatsoever to global warming as we would be contributing to carbon leakage instead.”

The UFU said it had arranged for a group of farmers to meet politicians from NI’s five political parties next week to discuss the issue.

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