Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 1st February 2022.

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Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 12:15 pm, 1st February 2022

I call the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to move the Bill.

Moved. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Members will have a copy of the Marshalled List of amendments detailing the order for consideration. The amendments have been grouped for debate in the provisional grouping of amendments selected list. There are four groups of amendments, and we will debate the amendments in each group in turn.

The first debate will be on amendment Nos 1 to 17, 20, 29 to 32, 34, 35, 55 to 59, 64 to 66 and 75, which deal with targets, carbon budgets and nitrogen balance sheets. The second debate will be on amendment Nos 18, 19, 21 to 28, 36 to 42, 45 to 49, 51, 76, 77, 79 and 80, which deal with proposals and policies. The third debate will be on amendment Nos 33, 60 to 63, 67 to 74 and 78, which deal with oversight, governance and accountability. The fourth debate will be on amendment Nos 43, 44, 50 and 52 to 54, which deal with the just transition principles and fund.

I remind Members intending to speak that, during the debates on the four groups of amendments, they should address all of the amendments in each group on which they wish to comment. Once the debate on each group is completed, any further amendments in the group will be moved formally as we go through the Bill and the Question on each will be put without further debate. The Questions on stand part will be taken at the appropriate points in the Bill. Clear as mud.

Clause 1 (The emissions target for 2050)

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

We now come to the first group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 1, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 2 to 17, 20, 29 to 32, 34, 35, 55 to 59, 64 to 66 and 75. In this group, amendment No 3 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 2; amendment No 5 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 4; amendment No 10 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 9; amendment No 12 is consequential to amendment Nos 4 or 5; amendment No 13 is consequential to amendment No 12; and amendment Nos 14, 17, 55 and 75 are consequential to amendment Nos 4 or 5. Amendment No 29 is a paving amendment to a number of other amendments.

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 1: In page 1, line 6, leave out “2050” and insert “2045”. — [Ms Bailey.]

No 2: In page 1, line 6, leave out “82%” and insert “100%”. — [Ms Bailey.]

No 3: In page 1, line 6, leave out “82% lower than the baseline” and insert “net zero”. — [Mr Blair.]

No 4: In page 1, line 6, at end insert—

<BR/>

“(1A) The Northern Ireland departments must ensure that the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the baseline for carbon dioxide.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 5: In page 1, line 6, at end insert—



“(1B) The Northern Ireland departments must ensure that the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for the year 2045 is at least 100% lower than the baseline for carbon dioxide.” — [Mr Blair.]

No 6: After clause 1 insert—



Emissions targets for 2030 and 2040


 


1A.—(1) The Department must set targets for the years 2030 and 2040 that are in line with the overall target for the year 2050.


(2) Proposed targets for the years 2030 and 2040 must be laid before the Assembly within 24 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent and be approved by draft affirmative resolution.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 7: In clause 2, page 1, line 9, leave out “69%” and insert “75%”. — [Ms Bailey.]

No 8: In clause 3, page 1, line 12, leave out “48%” and insert “50%”. — [Ms Bailey.]

No 9: In clause 4, page 2, line 1, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—



“specify—


(a) for a particular emissions target, an earlier year than that for the time being specified,


(b) for a particular year, a higher percentage than that for the time being specified.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 10: In clause 4, page 2, line 1, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—



“specify—


(a) for a particular emissions target, only an earlier year than that for the time being specified,


(b) for a particular year, only a higher percentage than that for the time being specified.” — [Ms Bailey.]

No 11: Before clause 5 insert—



“Meaning of ‘net zero&#x0027;


 


4A. In this Act, ‘net zero’ means 100% lower than the baseline.” — [Mr Blair.]

No 12: In clause 5, page 2, line 21, at end insert—



“(1A) The baseline for carbon dioxide is the amount of net Northern Ireland emissions of carbon dioxide in 1990.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 13: In clause 5, page 2, line 23, at end insert—



“or


(b) subsection (1A) so as to specify a different year in relation to carbon dioxide.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 14: In clause 6, page 2, line 36, at end insert—



“(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 (see subsection (3)).


 


(3) The net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 is determined as follows—


(a) take the amount of net Northern Ireland emissions of carbon dioxide for 2050 (which is to be determined in accordance with sections 7 and 8),


(b) deduct the amount of carbon units that are to be credited to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 (in accordance with regulations under section 9), and


(c) add the amount of carbon units that are to be debited from the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 (also in accordance with regulations under section 9).” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 15: In clause 7, page 3, line 19, at end insert—



“(d) carbon capture use and storage technology.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 16: In clause 9, page 4, line 12, leave out from “may” to end of line 14 and insert—



“must not specify a reduction in the net Northern Ireland emissions account for a period which is greater than 25% of emissions for that period.” — [Ms Bailey.]

No 17: In clause 9, page 4, line 16, at end insert—



“(5) The regulations may make provision about the crediting of carbon units to, and the debiting of carbon units from, the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050.


 


(6) The amount of carbon units that are to be credited to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 must not be greater than—


 














Total credits



x



CO2 emissions


 



 



 



Total emissions



 


(7) If—


(a) carbon units are credited to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050, and


(b) carbon units are debited from the net Northern Ireland emissions account for 2050, carbon units must be debited from the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050; and the amount of carbon units so debited must not be less than—


 














Total credits



x



CO2 emissions



 



 



Total emissions



 


(8) In subsections (6) and (7)—


‘Total credits’ is the amount of carbon units that are credited to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for 2050;


‘Total debits’ is the amount of carbon units that are debited from the net Northern Ireland emissions account for 2050;


‘CO2 emissions’ is the amount of net Northern Ireland emissions of carbon dioxide for 2050;


‘Total emissions’ is the aggregate amount of net Northern Ireland emissions of each greenhouse gas for 2050.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 20: After clause 10 insert—



Renewable electricity consumption


 


10C.—(1) The Department for the Economy must ensure that at least 80% of electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030.” — [Mr Dickson.]

No 29: In clause 11, page 5, line 6, at end insert—



“(1A) The Department must—


(a) carry out a public consultation lasting at least 16 weeks on proposed carbon budgets,


(b) also consult with the Climate Change Commissioner (as outlined in Section 28A), the other Departments and the Just Transition Commission (as outlined in Section 16B) and lay the proposals with the Assembly.


(1B) Proposed carbon budgets must be approved by the Assembly by draft affirmative resolution.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 30: In clause 11, page 5, line 6, at end insert—



“(1C) When seeking advice on setting the carbon budget, or on other environmental issues, the Department is to give due regard to the expertise and advice of any of the following bodies—


(a) The United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change;


(b) The Republic of Ireland Climate Advisory Council;


(c) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 31: In clause 13, page 5, line 24, leave out “target” and insert “targets”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 32: After clause 13 insert—



Setting of carbon budgets: Social, environmental and economic factors


 


13A.—(1) In this Act, when setting targets the Department must take account of;—


(a) the objective of not exceeding a fair and safe emissions budget,


(b) European and international law and policy relating to climate change (including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and protocols to that Convention),


(c) scientific knowledge about climate change,


(d) technology relevant to climate change,


(e) economic circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on—


(i) the economy,


(ii) the competitiveness of particular sectors of the economy,


(iii) small and medium-sized enterprises,


(iv) jobs and employment opportunities,


(f) fiscal circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on taxation, public spending and public borrowing,


(g) social circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on those living in poorer or deprived communities,


(h) the likely impact of the target on public health,


(i) the likely impact of the target on those living in remote rural communities and island communities,


(j) energy policy, in particular the likely impact of the target on energy supplies, the renewable energy sector and the carbon and energy intensity of the economy,


(k) environmental considerations and, in particular, the likely impact of the target on biodiversity,


(l) the likely impact of the target on the achievement of sustainable development, including the achievement of the United Nations sustainable development goals,


(m) current international carbon reporting practice,


(n) the special economic and social role of agriculture, including with regard to the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane,


(o) the risk of substantial and unreasonable carbon leakage,


(2) In this section, ‘carbon leakage’ means the transfer, due to climate policies, of production to other countries with less restrictive policies with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 34: After clause 15 insert—



Nitrogen balance sheets


 


15A.—(1) The Department must, no later than 18 months after this act receives Royal Assent, create a balance sheet to quantify all major nitrogen flows across all sectors in Northern Ireland, including its coastal waters, the atmosphere and soil and flows across these boundaries, to be known as a ‘nitrogen balance sheet’ for the purpose mentioned in subsection (2).


 


(2) The purpose of a nitrogen balance sheet is to record how nitrogen use efficiency contributes to achieving the targets in this Act.


 


(3) In this Act, ‘nitrogen use efficiency’ is the ratio of nitrogen removed from the environment compared to the total nitrogen added to the environment and is calculated having regard to sources of nitrogen pollution including—


(a) agriculture, food production and waste;


(b) transport; and


(c) energy.


 


(4) The Department must by regulations make provision for;


(a) a baseline figure for nitrogen use efficiency,


(b) how nitrogen use efficiency is to be calculated,


(c) the timescale in which the nitrogen balance sheet is to be reviewed,


(d) monitoring and reporting upon the nitrogen balance sheet,


(e) such other matters as they consider appropriate.


 


(5) Before laying the draft regulations under subsection (4), the department must—


(a) Take into account the transboundary nature of nitrogen flows;


(b) Consult with such other persons as the Department considers appropriate.” — [Ms Bailey.]

No 35: In clause 16, page 6, line 37, at end insert—



“(2A) When developing policies each Department must ensure they are consistent with the targets set out in the carbon budget.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 55: In clause 20, page 9, line 19, at end insert—



“(4A) The statement for 2050 must also state—


(a) the total amount of carbon units (if any) that have been credited to or debited from the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for that year, and


(b) the amount of the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for that year.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 56: In clause 20, page 9, line 20, after “target” insert “(or targets)”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 57: In clause 20, page 9, line 20, after “has” insert “(or have)”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 58: In clause 20, page 9, line 22, after “target” insert “(or each of the targets) for the year”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 59: In clause 20, page 9, line 24, after “target” insert “(or each of the targets)”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 64: In clause 24, page 11, line 27, leave out “either” and insert “any”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 65: In clause 25, page 11, line 36, leave out “target for 2050 is the highest achievable target” and insert—



“targets for 2050 are the highest achievable targets”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 66: In clause 25, page 11, line 37, leave out “not” and insert—



“either of them is not the highest achievable target”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

No 75: In clause 29, page 12, line 33, after “amount” insert—



“and that the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for 2050 is below a certain amount”. — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I was to call Ms Bailey to move the amendment.

Ms Bailey is not in her place. I move on to call Mr Philip McGuigan to move amendment No 6.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I beg to move amendment No 6:

After clause 1 insert—

<BR/>

Emissions targets for 2030 and 2040


 


1A.—(1) The Department must set targets for the years 2030 and 2040 that are in line with the overall target for the year 2050.


(2) Proposed targets for the years 2030 and 2040 must be laid before the Assembly within 24 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent and be approved by draft affirmative resolution.”

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Why would amendment No 4 not be called before amendment No 6?

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Mr Allister is right: amendment No 4 should be called before amendment No 6. I call the Minister.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I beg to move amendment No 4:

In page 1, line 6, at end insert—

<BR/>

“(1A) The Northern Ireland departments must ensure that the net Northern Ireland emissions account for carbon dioxide for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the baseline for carbon dioxide.” — [Mr Poots (The Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).]

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

We now commence the debate on amendment No 4. Minister.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Thank you. Give me a moment to get to the appropriate point, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker.

I thank the Chair and members of the AERA Committee for their scrutiny of the Bill. That was hugely beneficial over the last number of weeks. I am pleased that we are now at a stage when this Bill — a science-based Bill — is ready to move forward. That is hugely positive. This Bill is the right Bill for the House. On one hand, it will ensure that we can tackle the important issues around climate, while, on the other, it will ensure that we can deal with all of the issues that involve our economy, our agri-food sector and all of that.

I begin by outlining the amendments that I have tabled. They were all tabled following in-depth discussions and agreement with the AERA Committee during the Committee Stage of my Bill. I have tabled amendment Nos 61, 62, 63 and 67 to strengthen my Bill on oversight, governance and accountability. They include, but are not limited to, amendments to clause 21 of the Bill. I fully recognise —.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Will the Minister resume his seat briefly?

Given the sheer scale of what we are about to go through, it is important that we get it procedurally correct. I have been advised by the Clerk that, although Ms Bailey was not in her place to move amendment No 1, any Member would have had the right so to do. I make the House aware of that before the Minister proceeds. Does anyone wish to move amendment No 1?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. In that case, why would any Member not be able to move amendment No 2?

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

We have always moved the first amendment in the group. Ms Bailey was not in her place, and I have now offered the House the opportunity to move amendment No 1. I am sorry; there have been two opportunities now. As it is a serious issue, I need to take advice from the Clerks. Members should take their ease for a few moments.

Thank you, Members. I have been advised that, as an opportunity was given to the Member and other Members in the House to move amendment No 1, it will not be called.

We will move on to amendment No 2. I call Ms Clare Bailey to move amendment No 2.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 12:30 pm, 1st February 2022

I beg to move amendment No 2:

In page 1, line 6, leave out “82%” and insert “100%”.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

We can start the debate.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I will take the opportunity to apologise to the House. I was not in my seat, and I was not here on time. I am very sorry. Business has moved much quicker than scheduled today. I can only apologise. Thank you for allowing me to speak.

If it is OK, I will speak to the group as a whole. The amendments in group 1 relate to the targets and the interim target years. A strong and certain target will be absolutely key to providing and underpinning the emissions reductions that will follow in the legislation.

The Green Party's amendments propose 2045 as the deadline year for the emissions target. Almost every party present —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

It is going to be one of those afternoons.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The mover of the amendment has just said that the start year should be 2045. Mr Principal Deputy Speaker, have you not just ruled that the amendment that would make it 2045, namely amendment No 1, has not been and cannot be moved?

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

That is correct. I understand that Ms Bailey said in her introductory remarks that she was speaking to the group, but the point that the Member has made about the 2045 start date is accurate.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I referenced 2045 because it is in the context of what the Green Party proposes. Of course, I am not moving amendment No 1, but the other amendments that we proposed to the Bill are all linked. I am speaking to the general debate rather than the amendment. I hope that the Member will allow me to do that, because almost every party present in the Chamber signed up to that commitment in the Climate Change Bill. Since that Bill was published, COP26 in Glasgow has underscored how urgently we have to act. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was declared a "code red for humanity". If the parties were signed up to it before then, we certainly must be signed up to it now. If that is no longer the case, the onus is on parties to explain that change. That is for them to do.

We still believe that Northern Ireland needs strong and ambitious climate targets. We can no longer afford to be the climate laggard of the UK. Every indication is that we are heading down the wrong path. Right now, we are failing to contribute to an overall UK target. Climate legislation with an 82% overall target means that we will just about be contributing, but we will still be a drag on progress, relying on other UK jurisdictions to pick up the slack for us. Any change in context at a UK level will mean that we will be in a disastrous position. If — and, as I believe, when — the UK decides to accelerate its targets and ambition, we will not be in the best place to adapt to that.

We should not want a net zero target simply because we are afraid of being left behind. We should also want it because of the opportunity that it will bring. Net zero is possible for Northern Ireland, and it brings certainty and investment from a global market that is getting ever more focused on climate credentials for investment. What happens to our economy when GB and the Republic move ahead with net zero targets and we are left behind?

It is important to address the elephant in the room and the tractors at the door. I am sure that agriculture will be the focus of much of today's debate. First, the Green Party is pro-farmer. We want to see farmers and farming communities survive and thrive well into the future, but, in order to do that, the agricultural industry needs to be sustainable for future generations. Net zero targets will not be the ruination of agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The Member, in bringing her Bill, did not trouble with an economic assessment, and, therefore, the KPMG economic assessment was provided. It is very clear that the 100% proposal in her Bill requires an 86% cut in livestock, with 13,000 jobs on-farm to be lost and several thousand thereafter in the process. How, then, can she say that she is on the side of farming and that this is good for the economy, when that primary industry would be devastated by her proposal, or is she going to tell us that KPMG does not know what it is talking about?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for his intervention. Of course, that is the same KPMG that was found last week to be falsifying minutes and records in order to produce a report for the fossil fuel industry. Yesterday, we heard from KPMG that the figures that it gave in that report removed the public subsidies to the sector, which are up to 86%, when doing that assessment. It removed the public subsidy funding and did its economic assessment based on removing that because it said that it did not know what future public investment in the sector would be. Therefore, it did not put any of that in its report. The chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has removed himself from the claims in the report of job losses, so it is a bit of a debatable report.

The net zero target will not be the ruination of Northern Ireland agriculture. The farming media and the Minister should really have a look at how they have left the agri-food corporates to dominate and frame the conversation on these Bills as a debate on farmers versus the environment. Farmers are custodians of the land, and they know nature better than anyone. Any farmer to whom you speak will tell you exactly that. The level of misinformation and scaremongering that has taken place, fuelled by some on these Benches and the agri-food lobby, is shameful.

Many countries that rely heavily on agriculture have set net zero targets, including the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland, whose targets have not signalled the end of farming in their countries. Instead, they have paved the way for funding and support to flow into the sector.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I am not sure whether the Member has information that the rest of us do not have that the Irish Farmers' Association is supporting proposals in the Republic of Ireland. It supported this morning's protest, so the Member should not purport to articulate the idea that farmers in the Republic of Ireland are happy with the proposals — proposals that are not science-based either — and it has not been defined in the Republic of Ireland how what has been set out to be achieved will be achieved. I imagine that, when people see what is required, they will be horrified.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Minister for his intervention. Of course, had he listened to my words, I said that many countries that rely heavily on agriculture have set net zero targets, not that farmers in those countries were very happy with that. What he refers to in the Act that has been enacted in the South is that it needs the plans to go with it, and that is in motion at the minute.

The South will set its targets and its ambition, despite being even more reliant on agriculture than we are in the North. The Netherlands has set aside £21 billion of funding for its agriculture sector to help it to contribute to meeting the target. With the right supports, agriculture can lead from the front with the transition.

Last week, Sir Peter Kendall released his independent strategic review of the Northern Ireland agri-food sector. The Minister will be familiar with the report as he commissioned it, and it makes for startling reading. It states:

"The gap between perception and reality in terms of Northern Ireland’s environmental credentials is stark."

The report states that Northern Ireland's environment scorecard "makes for grim reading". The environment had "paid the price" for the success of Northern Ireland's agri-food sector. The report continues:

"The ambition to sell Northern Ireland produce on the back of its sustainability depends on plans being put in place, and quickly, to turn things round."

The report also touches on the threats posed to Northern Ireland farming post Brexit. I have spent the past weeks scrutinising how New Zealand and Australian trade deals are set to hugely displace Northern Ireland produce. It is naive of anyone to think that climate action is the threat here. Sir Peter Kendall's review is unequivocal: Northern Ireland must look beyond traditional markets for its agri-food produce, as the GB market is set to be flooded with imports from across the world as a result of those trade deals. Europe is the obvious choice as a market for Northern Ireland produce. That all points to post-Brexit trade deals, not climate mitigation and not climate ambition. Minister, when New Zealand and Australian agri-food products start to flood the GB market and when we start to look at Europe as a market for our produce, what happens when we cannot access that market because the EU has a net zero target and we do not? What happens to the Northern Ireland agriculture sector then? Citing climate change as the existential threat to agriculture is a red herring, and I urge the farming community not to be naive about that.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The UK as a whole has a net zero target. The issue is that there is recognition by the Climate Change Committee and its scientific review that Northern Ireland provides food to other parts of the UK and, as such, contributes to climate change emissions. Does the Member not accept that putting additional burdens on local production will simply offshore our food and generate increased carbon outputs from areas that are not as climate-efficient as we are? That will be counterproductive. You will produce additional greenhouse gas emissions by offshoring our food production, whether it is to Australia, New Zealand or America, or even if it is produced in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Before the lady answers that question, I want to say that this will be a long hike, folks. I am sure that everyone will get to make their points, so, if we could try to keep interventions shorter, that would be great.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for the intervention. Again, I will go back to what I just said. The imports from other trade deal negotiations being undertaken by Boris Johnson — the post-Brexit utopia that he envisaged — are the greater threat to Northern Ireland produce being able to continue to survive in GB markets. To continue down that path with blinkers on is insanity, given that we do not know what is coming. We have to clean up our act so that we can differentiate ourselves in the global market on the basis of our excellent environmental and carbon credentials. Otherwise, we are sacrificing the future of farming for the sake of corporate profits now.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. She makes a really interesting point about our credentials in relation to climate change and carbon emissions. Does the Member agree that the demand for food will increase exponentially in the coming years? Unfortunately, that demand for food will be met by countries that do not have the climate change credentials that the United Kingdom currently has and, indeed, that, as a whole, the United Kingdom aspires to achieve by 2050. Indeed, after the EU-Mercosur deal, countries in South America are clearing whole swathes of the Amazon forest to increase their beef production. Food demands will have to be met, and the countries from which the Member is seeking to meet that demand do not have those climate credentials.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for the intervention. Of course, food supplies will change as climate mitigations and climate change become even more apparent. What they will be remains unknown, but we need to really question whether it is Northern Ireland that will feed Brazil, if that was your example. I am not really sure about that or whether we would even have the capacity to do that. We are part of the food production chain, and nobody is saying that we should stop producing food, but what the food supplies will be remains unknown.

Climate action is not anti-farming.

I have tabled amendments, which I will discuss later, to establish a just transition fund for agriculture that is just like those in the Netherlands and Scotland, for example. I have tabled amendments to ensure that plans and policies that come under the Bill take account of the particular needs of our rural communities. I have also tabled amendments to ensure that climate action here does not simply move the production of emissions elsewhere through the carbon leakage that has been mentioned by some. We must ensure that that is a fair process that will give agriculture the best possible chance of being a sustainable industry well into the future.

Setting the strong target is a political decision. We have only to look to our neighbours in Scotland to see how strong political decision-making on the issue leads to huge rewards. Scotland has set strong targets to be net zero by 2045 despite the fact that much of its economy is propped up by fossil fuels. Since that target was set in law, we have seen many innovative support streams from the green transition flooding into Aberdeen from the UK Government and the private sector.

Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP 12:45 pm, 1st February 2022

I thank the Member for giving way. Ms Bailey, you speak about Scotland having set net zero targets by 2045. You expect Northern Ireland to go the same way. We cannot go the same way because we have a totally different topography. Scotland is a much larger area; it is much wilder, with more forestry and greater areas of bogland etc. We do not have that in Northern Ireland, so you have to rethink that.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for her intervention. I am not sure if she was here at the start of the debate, but I was not present to move amendment No 1, which proposed the 2045 target, so I think that that is off the table already.

Money is flowing into Scotland because of the challenges that Scotland faces with decarbonisation. Why, then, is there the attitude at UK level, which we in Northern Ireland buy into, that, where Northern Ireland is concerned, the support will not be provided to help us reach net zero ambitions, even if we wanted to? In a UK context, a relatively small agriculture sector is much easier to support when going towards net zero than the extensive Scottish oil and gas industry. This is a political decision. The UK Government can, and they should, support Northern Ireland's net zero ambitions and not leave us sitting as a dirty corner of Europe.

The UK Climate Change Committee has recommended that we set an emissions reductions target of "at least 82% by 2050". While the CCC is a highly respected advisory body, it is advisory. The CCC is not a policy-setting body. We are the legislators, and setting policy is our job. The CCC's advice does not make the case for Northern Ireland cementing its position as a climate laggard in law. Instead, it underscores that the UK Government need to step up and recognise some of the particular challenges that we face and to provide a greater degree of support and assistance like that that has been provided to parts of Scotland.

It is obvious that we share a single biogeographic unit with the Republic of Ireland and that, no matter your position on political unions, we are a separate land mass from GB. Our water flows, nitrogen flows, air and ammonia — the list goes on — do not recognise borders. Therefore, what happens when our behaviours here start impacting on those in the Republic? We are being told that we cannot meet net zero because of the emissions from our agri-sector. Yes, agriculture makes the biggest proportion of our emissions — it contributes 26% of the total greenhouse gases that are produced — but, as mentioned, agriculture emissions make up 37% of total emissions in the Republic. They have been politically brave enough, however, to set themselves an ambitious target because they know that that is where we all need to be if we are to have any hope of surviving.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Does the Member realise that the Irish Republic has confirmed that it will reduce methane by 10% by 2030? Who is ahead and who is behind there? We are already ahead of the Republic of Ireland. The Member is moving into areas like waterways. The waterways issue is entirely different from the climate change issue. Dealing with phosphates appropriately is the way that will deal with our waterways. That is an entirely separate debate. Conflating the two is causing confusion, and she would be best not to do it.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Minister for his ambition. If we are really leading the way and doing better, why stop that ambition and slow us down? Why not keep going? The European Union has introduced a 2050 net zero target. Northern Ireland cannot just become a solitary corner of Europe that is left behind. Net zero is possible. The chief executive of the CCC, speaking on 'Good Morning Ulster' in November, said that there is no technical barrier to Northern Ireland reaching net zero emissions and that, if net zero is the way that politicians want to go, of course you can go further than 82%.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

I thank the Member very much indeed for giving way. The Member talks about the European Union's move towards net zero carbon by 2050, but she will also be aware that, in various European countries, including France, Spain and, I understand, Germany, there are different targets for different regions. Why would there be a set of different targets across France, Spain or, indeed, Germany and not within our great nation, the United Kingdom?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

The Member rightly raises the fact that different states across Europe have their own targets. While Europe has set a target of net zero by 2050, Sweden, for example, has increased that ambition; I think that its target is now to reach net zero by 2045. Finland has set a target for net zero by 2035, in line with your policy; maybe Finland has taken a leaf out of the Member's manifesto. Different states can implement their own legislation, but the overall target for Europe remains net zero by 2050. Setting that legally binding target is a worthy and appropriate target for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

Just for clarification, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and is likely to remain so for a considerable period. Therefore, it is within the UK's target of 2050. My understanding, from being at COP26, from the conversations that I have had with the CCC and from my previous work with the IPCC, is that one of the few countries in Europe that is likely to make the 2050 target is, indeed, the United Kingdom. Why is Northern Ireland, where we are looking at 82%, being singled out to have a greater target to try to achieve that goal?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for that. It goes back to what I have said already: we are a separate land mass, and the environmental impact is very different for us than it is on the GB land mass. We know that we, in Northern Ireland, are the climate laggards. We are the highest emitters across these islands. The biodiversity and the environmental damage being done here is not the same as that in GB. While we might be part of an overall UK net zero target, the environmental consequences of not reaching net zero that we will feel and the impact that that will have on our land mass will be very different from those in GB. Our biodiversity, our peatlands, our air quality, our water quality and our soil quality are all very different because we are a separate land mass. That needs to be taken into account.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I want to finish this. Am I only speaking to this amendment, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

OK. Thank you. I will wrap up on this amendment. As legislators, this is our decision. The targets are a political choice. We have to make a decision for ourselves. It goes beyond party political interests. It goes beyond short-term considerations. It goes beyond elections. It goes beyond the interests of corporate lobbyists. It is about securing a future for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren. It is about setting the framework and creating systems that will be fit for the future. I urge the House: please decide wisely; if you want to sleep at night and look your grandchildren in the eye, make sure that you can be confident in telling them that you did everything possible with the privilege that you hold.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

It is just past 12.55 pm, so I propose to suspend the sitting for a meeting of the Business Committee. When we return at 2.00 pm, the next item will be questions for oral answer to the Minister for Infrastructure. When we resume this debate after Question Time, the next Member called to speak will be Mr Philip McGuigan.

The debate stood suspended. The sitting was suspended at 12.55 pm.

On resuming (Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair) —