Climate Change Bill: Consultation

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 13th April 2021.

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Photo of Gary Middleton Gary Middleton DUP 12:45 pm, 13th April 2021

T3. Mr Middleton asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to outline the independent scientific advice that his Department received when drafting its proposed climate change Bill, given that he will be aware that climate change is an issue that concerns us all. (AQT 1163/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

As I indicated to Ms Dolan, we have been taking advice from the Climate Change Committee, which is a panel of independent experts. I recently received a letter from the chair of that committee. It indicated that the committee's

"analysis has not produced a scenario for the UK net zero in 2050 that sees Northern Ireland reach net zero in the same year. We are not therefore able precisely to calculate the costs of Northern Ireland reaching net zero, but they will almost certainly be higher than those of the 82% reduction target by up to £900 million a year by 2050. If engineered removals technologies are used, the context of a net zero 2050 target for the whole of the UK is also important".

That is what we need to focus on as one country moving forward to a net zero target. That is wholly achievable, and Northern Ireland can make a significant contribution to that.

Photo of Gary Middleton Gary Middleton DUP

I thank the Minister for his response. The Minister has set it out that his Bill will set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 82% by 2050. Others have suggested reaching net zero by 2045. What impact would that have on Northern Ireland, and is it a realistic target?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I believe that Mr Aiken, who is to my right, thinks that we can do it by 2035. I am not sure where his expertise comes from, but the climate change experts say that a larger reduction in output from the Northern Ireland livestock sector would be required, compared with the rest of the UK. Even our most stretching tailwind 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 that is released, is not enough to get Northern Ireland to net zero emissions by 2050. Without a corresponding reduction in the consumption of such produce, this would simply shift emissions overseas.

I want to listen to climate change experts, but I suspect that there are a lot of climate change experts in the Chamber to whom I would be slightly less inclined to listen. I prefer to listen to the Climate Change Committee, which has some expertise and background in these matters. We would do well not to destroy the Northern Ireland economy and put 50,000 families — there are 100,000 people involved in agri-food — into unemployment because we want to grab a headline.