I firstly declare an interest in that I own 25 acres of land that I rent out. I provide voluntary assistance on my parents farm business.
From the outset I which to indicate my support for NI playing it’s part in enabling the UK to reach carbon nett zero also achieve Net zero Green House Gas emission by 2050. I recognise that this will still be painful for many sectors.
The EU also aims to be climate neutral by 2050 and appears committed to put this legal obligation.
I say that to acknowledge that we have climate emergency and to indicate my support for the NI Assembly legislating to play our part within the UK, just as the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales have already legislated for it.
Scotland has had a Climate change act since 2009 and recent updated its targets to 75% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030 and 90% by 2040. They are well ahead of us.
Wales Legislated to reduce GHG emissions in 2016 and in February this year, after almost 5 years of planning, updated its targets to achieve nett zero by 2050.
So why has NI not legislated yet?
New Decade New Deal a commitment is given that
“The Executive should bring forward a Climate Change Act to give environmental targets a strong legal underpinning.
Minister I have to ask, why has there been such a delay. You have talked of legislation. Where is it? When will it be presented to the NI Executive and when will the official Bill be published so that a well thought-out legislation is put in place rather than go beyond the UK Climate Change Committees recommendations for NI. ….. to the extend that they are deemed undeliverable by the UK CCC.
I would commend the member for South Belfast for your private members act to the degree that it has forced the issue onto the table and this issue must be addressed in a planned manner the Executive and by the Minster of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Executive.
But this Bill sets over ambitious targets over a compressed time frame, beyond the UK Climate Change Committee targets. There is no detailed plan to reach them but a proposed bind on the Executive to bring these proposals into legislation. It certainly risks delivering overly painful shock to our economy rather than enable efficient changes
Clause 2 legislatively would force the Executive to bring a plan. Why does this not simply stage that we will follow the UK CCC recommendations to ensure that NI plays its fair share of GHG reductions?
During the early stages of COVID lockdown, we greatly reduced our GHG emissions, many were furloughed. Employee did not travel to work. Some manufacturing had to shut down as their retailers were closed and orders were reduced. I do not want to hit ambitious targets by simply forcing the closure of industries.
Clause 2 sets a legislative commitment to reach net carbon zero by 2045. You are spooking the horses.
So we are at least 5 years behind Wales in legislating and this bill proposes that we are going to miraculously leapt frog ahead of other regions in a compressed period. I have to ask how?
I would urge all members to read and study the UK’s Climate change committee letter to DAERA of 1st April 2021. A very serious letter with an unfortunate date, replying to the DAERA official request in February.
It contains key issues regarding NI:
In December 2050, we recommended that any climate legislation for Northern Ireland include a target to reduce all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 82% by 2050 as part of a fair contribution to the UK Net Zero target in 2050 and our international obligations under the Paris Agreement. This remains our clear recommendation
I have to ask the member why is she proposing to go ahead to these date. Again I point out that there will be pain and costs as result of legislation legislation. We need to legislate to protect the environment, but in a fair and proportional manner for our region so that the UK meets its climate change targets by 2050
The UK Government is well advanced to meet the Paris agreements Climate Change commitments. Some regions of the UK are to be nett sinks others net sources but the UK as a whole would meet the climate change targets set in the Paris accord.
This bill will effect more than the agriculture industry
Each region of the UK is different.
Take the issue of electricity generation.
Within the UK there are Nuclear Power plants producing carbon free electricity in England Scotland and Wales, some 8GW at present But none in NI though some may flow through the interconnector
The UK has a total hydro electric power installed capacity of over 4,700 MW, including over 2,800 MW of pumped storage. But no significant among in NI. We are dependent on gas for electricity generation when the wind does not blow and when Kilroot Coal fired generation closes in 2024
IN addition there are extensive off shore wind production in the North Sea and around Morecombe bay
In other words, we are more dependent on Gas powered generation when our renewable energy does not flow. This makes it harder for us than other UK region, for us to reach net zero.
GB has greater options to assist with generation when there is no wind we do not. If allowances are not made for this in our local targets there will be effects on the price of electricity for individual homes and businesses. The fine words of protecting the vulnerable will come to nothing
Agri Food sector
As others have indicated this Bill greatly impacts Agriculture and portentially the Agri-food sector
Food production in NI has a greater GHG foot print than the rest of the UK
NI agriculture is responsible for 27% of our GHG emission but in the rest of the UK it is only responsible for 10%. There has been recognition by the UK Climate Change Committee that food production generates GHG emissions. NI food production helps to feed the rest of the UK. The CCC recognise that in assessing a fair limit in each area. This will be a major factor why they have not sought 100% reduction by 2050 never mine by 2045
Our analysis shows that Northern Ireland’s position as a strong agri-food exporter to the rest of the UK, combined with more limited capabilities to use ‘engineered’ greenhouse gas removal technologies, means that it is likely to remain a small net source of greenhouse gas emissions – almost entirely from agriculture – in any scenario where the UK reaches Net Zero in 2050. It is fair that those residual emissions should be offset by actions in the rest of the UK.
At this time, our assessment is that a Net Zero target covering all GHGs cannot credibly be set for Northern Ireland. Targets should be ambitious, but must be evidence-based and deliverable with a fair and equitable route map to achieving them.
But this Bill take no recognition of that
• Differences in land use. The livestock sector results in a higher proportion of grassland in Northern Ireland and lower proportion of cropland. Forest coverage is also lower than the rest of the UK at around 8% (including small woodland area), and significant emissions from peatlands mean that land use is currently a much larger net source of emissions in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland must plant trees and restore peatland to build a net land use sink over time,
“but the starting point means that the total size of the net sink will be smaller in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK by 2050”.
The UK CCC has also assessed our infrastructure in setting a local target
• less developed the natural gas network in NI – and the electricity network existing housing stock, clusters of heavy industry, and airport infrastructure.
• Potential to store CO2. Northern Ireland is less likely to have a major UK CCS cluster by 2050, and therefore does not appear to be the most ideal place to locate greenhouse gas removal technologies
Carbon capture is planned plays a role in the UK reaching its Paris Agreement climat change obligations to protect the planet. But our regional figure is not to benefit form it so CCC have set an allowance in their target of 82% by 2050
I have to say that the 2045 zero GHG target which this legislation is to set is not evidence based nor credible. It is causing huge concerns in the rural community. Friends and Neighbours have been contacting me concerned for their future and for that of their children. It is bring politics into disrepute.
Why do we simply not legislate for the targets agreed by the UK CCC to enable the UK to meet at least the Paris accords 2050 obligations of zero nett GHG emissions?
If individual detailed plans come forth that demonstrate that we can better them , then we can increase our targets just as Scotland and Wales have. But it would be a mistake to copper fasten unrealistic targets from the start as proposed in this bill
One of the most concerning statements in the letter is
“The context of a Net Zero 2050 target for the whole of the UK is also important. Rather than leading to additional overall reductions in UK GHG emissions, there is a risk that a Net Zero target for Northern Ireland in the same year or earlier could simply shift a greater share of the UK-wide costs of reaching Net Zero to Northern Ireland.
Just for clarity: bringing the 2050 date forward to 2045 or obtaining nett zero GHG emissions in NI will not necessarily improve the planet. It could well however, result in NI carrying a higher degree of the UK costs associated with the changes. Un-necessarily place restrictions and cost on businesses
CCC Going further to reach Net Zero in 2050 would likely require either (or both) of the
• A larger reduction in output from Northern Ireland’s livestock sector compared to the rest of the UK. Even our most stretching Tailwinds scenario – which entails a 50% fall in meat and dairy production in Northern Ireland by 2050 and significantly greater levels of tree planting on the land released – is not enough to get Northern Ireland to Net Zero emissions in 2050.
Without a corresponding reduction in consumption of produce, this would simply shift emissions overseas.
There is a real risk of simply off-shoring food production
I believe at some point there may well be carbon taxes on food production. Will it include other local industries? Further If we move in advance on HMG there may not be the appropriate carbon tax in place to protect NI producers and businesses from competitors oversea.. without such additional cost. I do not want to place a carbon border north south or east west might be needed to prevent our industries facing unfair competition.
There is a risk that we could add pain for local agriculture and food being sourced from elsewhere in the world. There is a danger of perverse outcome. This might even result in a great carbon footprint and with lower quality and animal welfare standards.
Going to slow could, lead to unnecessary costs in future, and could lead to Northern Ireland missing out on the benefits of climate investment that takes place elsewhere in the UK.
However, going too fast, and in particular aiming to decarbonise significantly faster than the rest of the UK, also poses several risks:
• Setting emissions reduction targets that are too ambitious to be delivered can undermine their credibility.
• Going beyond the natural rate of stock turnover would lead to premature scrappage of assets (e.g. vehicles, boilers). This may be costly, risks undermining popular support for transition, and could cause increased embedded emissions.
In summary, I want a climate change act for NI which is proportionate and fair. To date in listening to contributions I am remain concerned at the proposals that are being made and which are endanger of placing unrealistic requirements.
I call for common sense, we must do our bit as part of the UK to protect the planet. I support the 82% reduction in emission by 2050 This is in itself will be challenging and painful but why are we going beyond hurting local businesses without any necessarily benefit on the planet and UK overall targets without benefit?