Carbon Reduction Levels

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 21st June 2021.

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Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green 3:15 pm, 21st June 2021

T5. Miss Woods asked the for Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what measures he will implement to ensure that necessary carbon reduction levels are achieved in Northern Ireland, given that, last week, his Department reported that carbon reduction levels had come down by an embarrassing 1%. (AQT 1455/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

We have our climate change legislation, which has been sitting with the Executive, to bring forward, but legislation on its own will not ensure that we reduce carbon by the amount that is required. We need actions. The actions that we will take will be contained in our green growth policy. We will continue to work extensively on the development of that green growth policy. One of the things that my officials are working on is the funding to support that. We are looking at putting in a request to the Department of Finance for around £100 million per annum over the next number of years so that we can seriously tackle the issues of carbon reduction.

Many folk have been keen to show their green credentials in the Climate Change Bill. They will have to identify whether they support DAERA in its request and whether they have the green credentials to ensure that DAERA gets the finances to take real and meaningful action on carbon reduction. We have had substantial success in the energy sector in particular, which is no longer one of the big three. Those are now agriculture, transport and people's homes. There is work to be done to make that real, tangible difference. The question that I have for all my Assembly colleagues today is this: will you support me in doing that, or will you just make noises about the environment without providing the actions to back up that noise? That is a challenge that I lay down to all of you.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I thank the Minister for his answer. I agree: there is no time for greenwashing. There never was, and there certainly is not any more.

The Minister has made announcements and noises about planting eight million trees along with Forests For Our Future, but the figures from the Department show that we have a disproportionate reliance on commercial Sitka spruce planting.

How urgent does he feel the need to plant native broadleaf trees is so that we can start carbon sequestration?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:30 pm, 21st June 2021

Sitka spruce trees are pretty good at carbon sequestration as well. I planted broadleaf trees on my own land many years ago, not for commercial interest but to help the environment. Whilst Sitka spruce trees may not be my tree of choice, planting trees for commercial interest but with environmental benefits is not a bad thing. Forest Service's making £10 million a year is not a bad thing. We need to have wood in our lives, whether it is for the pencils that we use, the beds that we sleep in or the floors that we walk on. Planting trees that we will use to harvest is not a bad thing.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

That ends Question Time for today. I ask Members to take their ease for a few moments before we return to the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Bill.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)