Carbon Capture and Storage Technology

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 5th October 2021.

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Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 5th October 2021

T5. Ms Flynn asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what role his Department has identified for carbon capture and storage technology in the local fight against climate change. (AQT 1645/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Extensive work is being done on that. Peatland strategy is one area that we are looking at. There are two issues around our peatlands, which are not in as good a condition as they should be. When I say that, our peatlands are in a better condition than those in other parts of Ireland and, indeed, Scotland and other parts of the UK. We need to improve our peatlands to get them to the optimum status. The two things are the wetting of them and reducing the nitrogen deposition that takes place.

On the nitrogen deposition, we had hoped to reduce the amount of ammonia in the environment by around 25%, indeed by around 35% where the peatlands are stressed. Moving to a new payment system will assist us in working with the farming community in areas around peatlands in wetting them.

Photo of Órlaithí Flynn Órlaithí Flynn Sinn Féin

Thanks to the Minister for the response. He is probably already aware that the Climate Change Committee (CCC) expressed its intention for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to form a major part of Britain's emissions reduction strategy, yet the committee indicated that it is not due to operate here in any significant manner. Can the Minister tell us what interventions and supports his Department intends to offer in the absence of CCS technology to reduce emissions in the fight against climate change?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

There is the capture of emissions and the reduction of emissions. In the capture of emissions, we have our peatlands, our forests and our grasslands. We are doing work through the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Teagasc on our grasslands to identify what capture takes place there, particularly with older grasses and the roots as they go further into the soil, and how much carbon they take from the atmosphere.

Many opportunities exist for carbon reduction. Sixteen per cent of our carbon production comes from households, and 27% comes from agriculture. We can do a lot to capture the emissions that go into the environment from agriculture and translate them into renewable gas to go into people's homes, leading to a win-win situation. That will involve us not just maintaining food production at its current levels but probably increasing it, capturing a lot of the nutrients that come from it and using those nutrients for environmental purposes.