Climate Bill Amendments Announced To Protect NI's Agriculture Sector

Amendments to NI's proposed Climate Change Bill will ensure the agriculture sector is not being disadvantaged by net zero targets, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has said.

The Minister welcomed Assembly support for amendments to the Bill that he had brought to the Executive.

He said that the amendments will ensure a more operable piece of legislation through a series of technical amendments.

Mr Poots said that the "most important" amendment, which was passed at the Further Consideration Stage in the Assembly yesterday, means that the level of reductions in methane emissions is not required to be more than 46% lower than the baseline year (1990), as a fair and evidence-based contribution to the net zero target. This along with the amendments providing for the establishment of a Just Transition Fund for Agriculture and a Just Transition Commission were key to ensuring the protection of our rural communities.

Welcoming Assembly support Minister Poots said: "My amendment in relation to the methane emissions reduction goes some way to align once more with the science and evidence. I am pleased that Members have finally realised the importance of that science, this is a win for common sense. The amendment clarifies that the net zero ambition of some Members will not require a level of methane emissions reduction of more than 46% by 2050, which is consistent with the advice from the IPCC, the CCC's Balanced Pathway recommendations and the ambition of the Paris Agreement to achieve long term temperature goals. It will be very challenging, and it will require significant new policies and changes to current farming practices to ensure that we reduce our methane emissions."

The Minister added: "Let me be clear, my amendment does not limit ambition for the agriculture sector, or the ambition of Northern Ireland as a whole, but instead makes it clear that we in the Assembly are not expecting the agriculture sector to close down as part of the net zero ambition, which was voted through at Consideration Stage, to which I have made my opposition to quite clear. Instead it will get the buy-in we need from our agriculture sector by clarifying they are to make a realistic, albeit very challenging, contribution to tackling climate change so we can protect our environment in a sustainable way, whilst ensuring we have a thriving agriculture sector."

The Minister added: "The amendments I made to the Just Transition Fund for agriculture have ensured my Department can establish a scheme which can further protect and support our farmers and the agri-food industry. This will ensure they have a future in producing their excellent local food, as our local food security going forward is imperative. I also brought forward an amendment yesterday, which was agreed and which provides a more effective framework for my Department to establish a Just Transition Commission as per Consideration stage agreements. My amendment now allows for such a Commission to be established in such a way that best helps enable Northern Ireland's pathway to net zero, to be a pathway that is fair for everyone."

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