Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 1st February 2022.

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Clause 1 (The emissions target for 2050)

Debate resumed on amendment No 2, which amendment was:

In page 1, line 6, leave out “82%” and insert “100%”. — [Ms Bailey.]

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

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



“(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'


 


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 Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I understand that Clare Bailey was speaking before the break for lunch and had not intended to conclude her remarks on the group 1 amendments. I call Clare Bailey to speak. The next Member to speak after that will be Declan McAleer, the Chairperson of the Committee.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

[Interruption.]

Sorry? That is all right.

I had intended to speak to the grouped amendments. I had finished speaking to amendment No 2 just before the break for lunch, so I would like to address the other amendments that we have tabled in group 1.

Amendment Nos 7 and 8 relate to interim targets for 2030 and 2040. We will not move those amendments. Instead, the Green Party will support amendment No 6, which was tabled by Members from Sinn Féin and which provides that the interim targets for those years be set in line with the overall target within 24 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

Amendment No 10 addresses the lowering, or potential lowering, of targets. As drafted, the Bill allows the overarching target to be amended by the Department to be less ambitious. While we have been given assurances that that is certainly not the Department's intention, and we will, of course, take it at its word, it has always been the Green Party's position that there is no point in setting a target that can be lowered if, for example, we were not meeting it. The consultation that was carried out during the AERA Committee's scrutiny of the Bill showed that there was a clear strength of opinion amongst stakeholders that the Department should not, under any circumstances, give itself the power to amend the target year or percentage to lower ambition. Therefore, we support the Minister's amendment No 9, which will ensure that the target can be amended only to increase ambition, either by specifying "an earlier year" or "a higher percentage". The Green Party thinks that that is satisfactory, and we will not move amendment No 10 either.

Proposed amendment No 16 to clause 9 relates to the purchase of carbon units by the Department and carbon offsetting. In its current form, the Bill places no limits on the number of carbon offsets that can be purchased by the Department as a way of meeting carbon budgets. Our amendment No 16 seeks to deal with something that is vital to the operation of the legislation and places a limit on using the purchase of carbon credits as a way of meeting our targets. For example, the Department would not be able to say that it had met its targets if it had done that through the buying of carbon credits. We cannot enter a process of decarbonisation with the intention of meeting our targets through clever accounting, carbon offsetting in other countries or other market-based solutions. The idea that we can purchase our way out of a climate emergency makes a mockery of our commitment to tackle the crisis in legislation. Reductions in emissions must happen within Northern Ireland. Amendment No 16 sets strict limits on offsets and carbon credits and how they are used —

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

— just a second, please — to balance budgets by capping how many carbon units can be credited to the net Northern Ireland emissions account for a particular period at 25% of the total emissions for that period. While clause 9 provides for DAERA to set such a limit by regulations, it gives far too much power to one Minister and Department. The limit must be included in the Bill. I encourage all Members to support amendment No 16 to ensure that that is the case.

I will give way.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Member said that the reductions must occur in Northern Ireland. What if the decisions taken in Northern Ireland result in increased emissions elsewhere and the net global output is increased? How do her proposals work in that scenario?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I do not know what that scenario is, but I thank the Member for that point.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

As I have highlighted, Northern Ireland agri-food products have a lower greenhouse gas content or cause behind them than many food products elsewhere in the world. For example, the average emissions intensity of milk production in Northern Ireland is 1·279 CO2 per kilogram of energy corrected milk, whereas the average global factor is 2·5, which is twice that amount. By being hard on our farmers, you have no control over production elsewhere in the world, and world emissions will increase.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for that point. He is going back to part of the previous conversation. The climate does not care about the efficiency per unit produced. What matters is the total amount of emissions. It is the total amount of emissions that we must look to reduce. I will go back to what I said to the Member before: the post-Brexit trade deals are the biggest threat when it comes to the circumstances of which he speaks, rather than climate targets and actions.

I turn to amendment No 34, which looks at nitrogen balance sheets. Amendment No 34 inserts a new clause that creates a requirement on the Department to produce a nitrogen balance sheet:

"to quantify all major nitrogen flows across all sectors in Northern Ireland".

The amendment was modelled on a similar provision in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which mandated the creation of a Scottish nitrogen balance sheet as a powerful new source of evidence to track how efficiently nitrogen is used in Scotland and to help to identify opportunities to improve that. Nitrogen is a basic building block of life, which is present across the economy and environment. It is very important for growing and producing food, which is why it is an issue that Northern Ireland in particular should be looking at, given our position as a food exporter.

The effective use of nitrogen is important. Correctly used, it has an important role to play. Think of applying manure to grass for livestock. Losses of nitrogen to the environment through run-offs to rivers and lakes, through air pollution and through releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have devastating effects on climate change, biodiversity, air and water quality and human health. Nitrogen use efficiency means the proportion of nitrogen that is used for intended purposes such as growing food compared with nitrogen that is lost to the environment. A large proportion of stakeholders who responded to the Committee's consultation on the Bill wished to see nitrogen use efficiency included in the measures put forward by the Department. However, it was not brought forward, as the Minister felt that it would better fit a separate law that covers biodiversity and ecosystem health.

We feel that nitrogen causes catastrophic damage to waterways, biodiversity and ecosystems, but it also turns into nitrous oxide in the air. Nitrous oxide is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas with a warming effect that is almost 300 times greater than CO2, which, of course, fits into the Bill. Leaving nitrogen out of the Bill leaves out a huge chunk of the problem that we face. We hope that amendment No 34 will help us to develop a vital evidence base and to determine a baseline for nitrogen use. In turn, that will support not only climate action but air quality and food strategies and future environmental policies.

I will briefly touch on other amendments in the group. With the exception of one technical amendment, the Minister's amendments in the group relate to the setting of a specific target of net zero CO2 by 2050. I will not speak to each amendment in turn, as many of them are consequential and technical amendments, but I will speak generally on the setting of a specific carbon dioxide target.

The Green Party will oppose these amendments. Splitting targets is bad practice and sets a bad precedent. It is not done in the rest of Ireland or in the UK. It is done in New Zealand, and we have seen how targets that were singled out have become vulnerable to lobby groups fighting to have a bigger slice of the emissions pie. If these amendments pass, it will make me very wary of what kind of imaginative accounting is to come as we start our journey towards net zero.

The CCC's balanced pathway, which recommended an 82% overall fall in GHG emissions, already requires net zero CO2 emissions, so we should all ask ourselves why a specific CO2 target is proposed and why it is being framed as though it is a compromise. It is a distraction, and not a very clear one. If the target is 82%, CO2 will be net zero; if the target is net zero, CO2 will be net zero. We feel that this amendment is pointless. Singling out one gas in that way sets the stage for other gases to be singled out for differential treatment. The science does not support that. We must be very careful with the standard that we set in legislation. Some may accuse me of catastrophising. Let us not forget, however, that, throughout the past week, we have seen an awful lot of spin, and this amendment has appeared in the media as a compromise. It has been framed as if it were something new; not exactly the same target as was already proposed. For me, the bottom line must be the science. The question is whether this amendment will credibly help to reduce climate change. If not, it is just smoke and mirrors — a clever distraction — and we should not support it. The Green Party will not support it.

I look forward to a respectful and challenging debate, and I hope that Members can support strong, transparent provisions that set clear frameworks for the years ahead.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin 3:00 pm, 1st February 2022

I welcome the opportunity to speak, as Chairperson of the AERA Committee, on the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill that has been introduced by the Minister and to outline the extensive work that the Committee has undertaken over the last number of months in its scrutiny.

Climate change is, arguably, the most important issue facing society. The House will be aware of the increasing number of natural disasters and extreme weather events being reported around the globe, leading to ecological devastation and loss of life. Christian Aid recently reported that the 10 worst climate disasters last year accounted for $1·5 billion or more in economic losses and thousands of deaths. We are seeing the effects of climate change locally: the average annual temperature has risen by about 9% since the 1960s, and our climate is increasingly mild and wet. The evidence is unequivocal: we are responsible for the harm caused to the planet.

Human activity and the generation of greenhouse gases from industry, travel and consumption have caused profound global warming over the last 200 years, leading to changes in the natural environment and weather patterns. The challenge is clear and stark: we all have a responsibility to do our part to mitigate future environmental harm. To avoid irreversible harm to the planet and future devastation, large and small nations, young people and older generations must change how we live, work and travel.

At the COP26 conference in November, we heard about the profound impact that climate change has had on other parts of the world. We heard about the imminent risk of the complete loss of animal and plant species because of climate change and about the threats to people's homes and livelihoods. The Committee recognises the challenges posed by climate change, and the pledge from nations across the globe is to take stronger actions in order to meet the Paris agreement objective of maintaining global warming at well below 2°C by 2050. That is why it is crucial that we establish local climate change legislation. We need to provide an effective and deliverable framework to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and do our fair share in the global movement to mitigate harm from climate change.

The Committee acknowledges that all sectors of the local economy will be affected by the climate change law and that all industries will have to adopt new ways of working and introduce innovations to reduce their impact. That will not be easy. The task will be hard and long, and it is important that the laws that we put in place not only enable effective and ambitious change but provide appropriate safeguards to protect those who will be most affected by the transition.

Given the profound and wide-ranging implications of the Bill, the Committee undertook an extensive call for evidence to seek views from the public and stakeholders on the proposals.

Overall, we received over 1,000 responses to our call, and they comprised returns from citizens as well as from organisations representing the agri-food, environment, energy, building, transport and business sectors. We also had some fantastic and robust engagements with local schools, and we engaged with around 300 pupils. The Committee was struck by the almost universal desire from stakeholders to see climate change law introduced here and by the profound frustration due to the fact that we are the only part of these islands that does not have climate change legislation. We need to rectify that, and the Committee welcomes the progression of legislation to address that gap.

We heard a number of key messages from those who responded to our call for evidence. The majority of respondents welcome the Bill's introduction, but many have concerns about its ambition, particularly the overall emissions target, and they would prefer to see a net zero position legislated for. However, others welcome the target of a reduction of emissions of at least 82% by 2050 as that is in line with the advice from the UK CCC. Most people support the proposed system of carbon budgeting, but concerns were raised about some of the provisions that would enable its adjustment. There were significant concerns about the lack of provision for a just transition to support different industries to make the move to greener climate-friendly practices. The overwhelming majority of respondents want to see greater collaboration between jurisdictions on a transboundary basis to address climate change, because it cannot be tackled by working in isolation. There was significant support for the establishment of a locally based entity to provide independent advice and scrutiny of climate change policy and government action.

In addition, the Committee held a number of oral evidence sessions with 20 stakeholders, including those representing the local agri-food industry, environmental groups, local government, small businesses, rural communities and the waste management sector. We also received oral briefings from the Department and engaged closely with officials in our deliberations to clarify issues and flesh out some of the concerns that were raised. We also took evidence from the UK CCC to hear its advice and projections for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions locally, and we heard from the Scottish Just Transition Commission in order to learn how it has embedded those principles in policy in Scotland.

Through our engagements, we heard from respected academics in climate change law and governance. We heard about the importance of establishing robust local legislation with sufficient ambition in order to boost our environmental reputation and ensure that our economy does not fall behind those of our neighbours as businesses increasingly seek investment opportunities in green growth markets.

In order to inform our views, we commissioned briefings on the Bill from colleagues in the Research and Information Service to hear how it compares with other legislation and about the potential financial impacts of pursuing different emissions targets. The Committee recognises the need for climate change legislation here and considers that the amendments that we have recommended to the Department will significantly strengthen the Bill and embed the principles of just transition and transboundary working at the heart of the legislation, as well as committing the Department to scoping the future introduction of a locally based entity for independent scrutiny and advice. That will ensure that the Bill provides an effective framework for all sectors of the economy to move forward and reduce emissions in a just, fair and transparent manner and to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of society are taken into account in the deployment of strategies to meet climate action.

We all have a responsibility to change in order to avoid irreversible harm to the planet. We owe it to children, young people and future generations to ensure that we take the necessary steps to mitigate climate change now so that they are not left in an even worse situation with a need for more radical change.

The Committee, and, I am sure, most of the House, welcomes the progression of local climate change legislation that will allow our businesses, the agriculture sector, industry and the public service to move forward with policies and plans and play their part in the global effort to reduce climate harm.

I will move to the Committee's views on the Bill and the amendments in group 1 that were proposed by the Committee. Clauses 1 to 3 set out targets to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 82% by 2050 and interim targets for 2040 and 2030 in line with advice from the UK CCC. The Committee recognises the strong divergence of opinion on those targets, with many stakeholders feeling that they do not go far enough, while others consider that they are based on sound scientific advice. Members also recognise that representatives from the agri-food sector have been particularly vocal in their calls to support the Bill's emission targets because they will maintain our ability to produce high-quality meat and dairy products.

In the event, the Committee did not come to a unanimous position on the overall emissions target, but the majority of members supported the Bill. The Committee did, however, recommend that the Department amend clause 1 to take full account of the CCC's advice that there should be a net zero CO2 position by 2050 as part of the overall 82% reduction in greenhouse gases, and it was content with the corresponding amendment No 4, which was tabled by the Minister.

To support that amendment, the Department has suggested a number of necessary consequential changes via amendment Nos 12 to 14, 17, 31, 55, 59, 64 to 66 and 75. The Committee is content with those amendments, as drafted by the Department.

Clauses 4 and 5 make provision for DAERA to adjust emission target years and baselines through regulations in the future, subject to preconditions established in later clauses. The Committee reflected the strong concerns raised by stakeholders that, theoretically, those clauses may be used to delay action on climate change, and requested that the Department consider amending the provisions to ensure that that would not happen. The Committee welcomes the pledge by the Minister and the Department that the intention of those clauses is not to reduce climate action but to ensure that there is flexibility in the Bill to adapt to any future changes that may be made in international accounting practice. The Committee also supports the subsequent amendment No 9, which was tabled by the Department to amend clause 4, and will ensure that the emission targets and years can only be made more ambitious.

The Committee did not identify any issue of concern with the provisions, as drafted, in clauses 6 to 8, and broadly welcomes the proposals under clauses 9 and 10 that would allow DAERA to establish a scheme to track carbon usage and credit and debit carbon units between various periods. That is a well-established system in other jurisdictions to monitor progress on emissions.

Clauses 11 to 15 set the mechanisms by which the Department will make carbon budgets that will set maximum emission levels on a five-year basis. The Committee heard evidence that that is a methodology that is applied in numerous regions to measure emissions reductions and broadly welcomes the adoption of that approach. The Committee questioned whether the scope of the budgets could be expanded to include other environmental indicators, such as nitrogen efficiency, ammonia emissions and biodiversity targets. While members recognise the importance of measuring those indicators, on balance, the Committee did not agree to seek an amendment to the Bill as they might be more effectively addressed by different legislation.

Clause 15 enables the Department to adjust a carbon budget by carrying forward any unused budget to a future period, and carrying back up to 1% of a budget to a previous period. Many stakeholders expressed concern about that provision, so members sought assurances from DAERA about the intent and scope. The Committee was advised that clause 15 could not be used to weaken climate action, given that the carbon budgets must be set at a level to meet the overall targets, and that any plans put in place to meet a budget would be in the process of being implemented before consideration was made to adjust a budget. The Department must also liaise with Departments and the UK CCC before making any proposal to adjust a carbon budget. On balance, the Committee considers that a reasonable safeguard. That is all that I have to say on behalf of the Committee on the first group of amendments.

Photo of William Irwin William Irwin DUP

This legislative process has been quite a journey. It has been one of the most involved processes that I can remember in my time as a member of the Agriculture Committee; indeed, it is far from over, if the list of amendments is anything to go by. That points to the seriousness of the challenge that is before us as a legislative Assembly.

At the outset, I must state that I believe that the amendments tabled by some Members — certainly at the early stages — amount to a childish game of ping-pong. I resent the very obvious game playing. It does not bode well for us reaching a sensible outcome on one of the most important issues. To simply take the Department's Bill and attempt to amend it in such a casual manner by changing dates and reducing the time frames is a concern for a great number of reasons, not least because the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill is the Executive Department's Bill. It is a Bill that has been constructed by the people who will oversee its implementation. To casually insert amendments in this fashion rides roughshod over the Department. The net result, particularly if the amendments on the time targets were pushed through, would be the forewarned decimation of our agri-food industry. As a recent communication from the Climate Change Committee alludes to, it would also plunge Northern Ireland into a cost nightmare. Costs associated with the ridiculous proposal of net zero by 2045 would be to the tune of billions of pounds extra. That extra money does not exist. The Department believes that the extra cost of a net zero by 2045 target would be in the region of £5·5 billion, on top of the cost for the net zero by 2050 target.

It gets more fanciful by the minute. Some Members continue to push Northern Ireland closer to an economic cliff edge. That is not a firm footing on which to move forward, and I again urge the parties in opposition to this Bill to reconsider their views.

I found it interesting that the Speaker even thought it important to write to MLAs about the uniqueness of the situation. It is far from favourable to have two competing Bills. The situation, however, remains that two Bills are on the table, and I wish to state my support for the Bill before the House today standing in the name of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Edwin Poots MLA, and for it to pass Consideration Stage. The Bill has the very wide support of the agriculture industry, and, although it is a Bill that encompasses much more than just agriculture, it is that sector that has responded loud and clear to the realities of meeting the challenges of climate change.

As was outlined yet again in a very informative and worthwhile webinar yesterday, Minister Poots's Bill has been carefully constructed, with expert input to balance the important work of protecting the climate against the equally important work of ensuring that our agri-food industry and economic well-being are not irreparably impacted on. With that in mind, we are now well versed in the work of the UK Climate Change Committee. Its expert-led panel has recommended that Northern Ireland reach at least an 82% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. Although I have read commentary from those who would detract from this Bill by saying that it lacks ambition, I completely disagree with such a view, and I point to the collective nature of the Climate Change Committee's work to steer the United Kingdom as a whole towards meeting its objectives. The efforts of Northern Ireland are equivalent to the efforts across the other UK nations and, most crucially, are understood to be achievable.

It is also important to note that the competing private Member's Bill has been subject to a thorough assessment by the leading company KPMG, the results of which have been sobering and the topic of considerable discussion and alarm amongst the agri-food industry, both from the perspective of the representative bodies and that of individual stakeholders. The headlines in the KPMG report are stark. Beef and sheep farming in less-favoured areas (LFAs) could see a 98% drop in farm numbers. That would be catastrophic. As a dairy farmer, I note that 86% of dairy farms would close under the private Member's Bill's outcomes, and, although in my comments today I must remain on the Minister's Bill, it is important to touch on the important commissioned research on the competing private Member's Bill. Many of the amendments on the table today refer back to the private Member's Bill, and there is clearly an attempt to move the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill significantly into that territory. That is a grave mistake.

I move on to the specific amendments listed in group 1, which are associated with targets, carbon budgets and nitrogen balance sheets. I support the Minister's amendments, which are amendment Nos 4, 9, 12, 13, 14, 17, 31, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 64, 65, 66 and 75. I also support amendment No 15, which is a non-ministerial amendment, as I feel that it represents a worthwhile addition, given the importance of carbon capture and storage technology. The Minister's amendments seek to make sensible improvements to the wording of the Bill, and, although the wider aims of the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill are ambitious, they are more widely regarded as being achievable than, for instance, amendment Nos 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8, where it is very clear that the signatories to them wish to go so far as to place our entire agri-food industry in peril. As I have said, implementing them would cost Northern Ireland many billions of pounds, which is money that we do not have to waste. They seek to do that by vastly shortening the time frames and, indeed, as a knock-on effect, by reducing the productivity of the agri-food industry. As I mentioned earlier, that has been well warned against by the Climate Change Committee, KPMG and the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), as well as by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which, quite rightly, states that it wants to see the eradication of emissions but, crucially, not the eradication of small business.

That line from the correspondence received yesterday from the federation was especially stark. The risks to small businesses are, indeed, enormous, and even the federation actively steers the House towards the 82% target. I therefore signal my intent not to support amendment Nos 1, 2, 3 and 5, as they would massively impact the time frame and, with that, create massive upheaval to Northern Ireland's economy and plunge it over a cliff edge.

I do not support amendment Nos 6, 7 and 8, as they have a significantly greater impact than that proposed in the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill, and that has not been fully understood. Amendment No 10 is unnecessary, as the Minister's amendment represents an adequate improvement. Amendment No 11, which inserts a new clause, is a significant departure from the Bill, and the wider impact of such a departure is not fully understood.

Amendment No 20 directly relates to the Department for the Economy. There is a significant need for that Department to make its own direction on consumption in regard to power generation from renewables. I again resent the casual approach of the proposers of that amendment, especially when the issue of power generation comprises so many different rules and regulations that deserve much greater consideration in their own right.

On amendment No 30, it is clear, given that Northern Ireland is working towards a 2050 target from a United Kingdom-wide perspective, that advice on carbon budgets and other environmental issues should be taken, for the most part, exclusively from the United Kingdom's advisory services; indeed, the Climate Change Committee is an important inclusion in that proposal. It is vital that our overall direction is not dictated to by interests and loyalties to other jurisdictions that will be working to differently set agendas and outcomes. We must work to meet our respective targets in the UK framework. For that reason, I cannot support that amendment.

Amendment Nos 32 and 34 insert new clauses that are unnecessary. The Climate Change (No. 2) Bill effectively covers the areas under carbon budgets, with the Minister's amendment No 38 adequately covering the main points. On departmental coordination and multisectoral impacts, the Bill clearly affords the necessary latitude to be reflective and responsive to the circumstances prevailing at that time. Amendment No 35 is unnecessary, as it goes without saying that individual Departments' efforts would be complementary to the regional direction of travel.

It has been a lengthy debate so far, so I will draw to a close my remarks on the first group of amendments.

Photo of Cara Hunter Cara Hunter Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 1st February 2022

I welcome the opportunity today to contribute to the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill discussion and to speak on the group 1 amendments on targets, carbon budgets and nitrogen balance sheets. I also welcome the fact that the debate is not timed so that many can contribute and have their say.

As one of the youngest MLAs in the Assembly, I engage heavily with the younger generation and climate activists of all ages, and I know how much the consideration of the climate change legislation today means to them. From my engagement with a number of sectors ahead of the debate on the Bill, I believe this to be an exciting time in our history, as I have seen how keen our citizens, businesses and sectors are to diversify, innovate and learn how to tackle the climate crisis. We want to ensure that the legislation, with our amendments today, is strong and fair. Later today, we will discuss the importance of a well-funded just transition, oversight and clear policies across Departments.

I will move to some of the amendments. Above all else, we across the House can contribute today to clear and effective climate legislation. Today, the SDLP will support amendment No 9 and, if moved, amendment No 10, so that emissions targets can only be brought forward and not pushed back and, for a particular year, a "higher percentage" target. That reflects the urgency of the climate crisis and holds Departments to account. Protecting our environment should be a priority for our Government here. Thousands of young people on the island of Ireland, many of whom are too young to vote, have shown us through protest, speeches, petitions and climate change events just how much the topic means to them. Some argue that the North is small, but we can make a huge and positive step by creating appropriate legislation.

I welcome amendment Nos 32 and 35, which detail the Department's accountability for key factors when setting carbon budgets, such as "scientific knowledge about climate change", "technology relevant to climate change" and, most importantly, the "likely impact" on rural jobs and rural employment opportunities. Any decisions made on climate change must include a fair and just transition. As always, the SDLP is committed to working with our rural communities to bring about the change that we need.

I firmly believe that today is our chance for change. I welcome the opportunity to speak on the legislation and to contribute to the debate on the amendments in group 4 later today, when the SDLP will say that a just transition is necessary to meet targets ethically and that we can do that through having an adviser, correct coordination and appropriate fundamental just transition principles.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

It is useful at this point to set out the Ulster Unionist position on the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill and, indeed, the Climate Change Bill. Behind the scenes, my party and I have encouraged the sponsors of the two Bills to come closer together. To many people outside, there is a degree of absurdity about the Northern Ireland Assembly debating two climate change Bills when we should be debating one climate emergency Bill, because that is the situation that we are in.

Our party's position is that we wish to support amendments to both Bills so that they read as closely together as possible, but the Bills should put us in a situation that allows our nation, the United Kingdom, to reach its net zero contribution by 2050 in such a way as to ensure that Northern Ireland's agribusiness and other sectors of the economy are not badly damaged. To us, that means that we need to be in a position to get to 82% or better by 2050. Our party will support the proposals made by the Minister for getting to that point.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I am interested in the Member's comment. On 22 March last year, you posted a video on your party's Twitter feed in which you said:

"This Bill is something that we have long waited for. We would like it to be more ambitious. We would like to get to net zero carbon by 2035".

Yet you have just said that you think that we should only get to 82% by 2050. I wonder who the real Ulster Unionist is here.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

I assure you that I am definitely the real Ulster Unionist and the real Ulster Unionist Party. One thing that we reflected on was that we would talk to the business community; we would talk to the agribusiness community; we would talk to the farmers. We talked to those people, and they said, time and time again, that they would not be able to get into that position. Yes, I would have liked to have a more ambitious target, but we are a party that listens. Unlike other political parties, we go out and talk to communities to achieve that aim. We listened to what was said clearly by the farming community. We listened to what was said by the agribusiness community. Having been at COP26 and, in my previous existence, having worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), I know that it is about realistic goals.

There are other things that we wish to see come through in the Bill. My learned friend our agriculture spokesman will talk about some of the amendments and what our position will be.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. Tomorrow, the Member's colleague the Minister of Health will publish our health performance statistics. In my lifetime — certainly in my time as an MLA — I cannot remember any of the targets therein being met. Following the Member's logic as he applies it to this Bill or these Bills, does he believe that we should therefore revise the targets that are set for our trusts and the Department of Health?

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

Thank you very much indeed for that question. I, too, think that our Health Minister has been absolutely brilliant in what he is trying to do; indeed, our Health Department has been extraordinary in dealing with very difficult circumstances. I am certain that every political party in the Executive fully supports the Health Minister in his aims and objectives. Here, however, we are talking specifically about the climate emergency and how we achieve the position that we need to get to. We have to set realistic goals.

There are other things that we need to do. We need independent verification, and, as a party, we will call for a climate emergency commissioner and commission. We need to see that, and we will support the amendments that set that direction as well.

We note the Alliance Party's position on action plans. We will support those action plans because we need movement on where we are trying to get to. Those are key objectives. As legislators, however, we have to set out legislation that is achievable, that is not going to do more damage than good, and which will allow us to contribute toward net zero carbon by 2050 across our nation, the United Kingdom.

There are many aspects of the Bill — we will hear about them as we go through today — that will require a lot of discussion. We will encourage everybody to look at the wider picture in order to achieve our goals, aims and objectives. However, there are significant issues around those objectives as well. We need to understand what is meant by a just transition. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the CBI and other members of the business community have called on us to make sure that there are appropriate mechanisms for a just transition, because the climate emergency is with us. What will we have to do to achieve that? We need to explore how we set up a situation in which we can have a just transition and are able to fund that just transition.

There are opportunities available to us as well. It is a question not just of what we are going to have to cut back on but of what we are going to have to develop. That speaks to the ideas around action plans and making them work as we go forward. As legislators, looking at the raft of amendments to the Bill, and because there are two Bills, we need to produce two climate emergency Acts that enable us to achieve our goals and objectives without fundamentally damaging our economy while we are doing so.

To be honest, I cannot think of anybody here who does not believe in a climate emergency or in the real challenges that we will have with the rise in temperature by 2°C by 2050, which, regrettably, is our direction of travel at the moment. We cannot be in a situation where we are not all working collectively to get to where we need to be. We can do that. That is why we should be bringing the best parts of both Bills together for achievable goals and deliverables.

Those achievable goals are quite simple. One, we need to recognise that there is a climate emergency. Two, we need to have an independent verification method under a commission and a commissioner. Three, we need to have realistic goals, which must be for better than 82% by 2050: if we do not do that, we are going to damage our economy. The final piece of the puzzle is that we must have a just transition. We must have a mechanism to make sure that our communities are not damaged as we make the necessary transition in order to deal with the climate emergency.

My friend, our agriculture spokesman, will talk specifically about the amendments as we go through the group.

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance 3:30 pm, 1st February 2022

We are most certainly in a position where we can focus on 2050 and on the specific net zero figure, and we should be moving forward with the debate on that basis. I commend the Minister and his Department for introducing the Bill, which is being presented at a time when legislation is long overdue and increasingly urgent and in a context where Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK, Ireland and, indeed, Europe not to have its own form of net zero climate law and the associated and necessary frameworks around that law.

While we will all experience the effects of climate change, we will not all do so equally across the world, nor do we all bear equal responsibility. The world's richest 10% of nations produce around 50% of all emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest half of the world's population — around 3·5 billion people — are responsible for just 10% of carbon emissions, yet they are the most threatened by catastrophic storms, droughts and other severe weather shocks that are linked to climate change. For that reason, the 2015 Paris climate agreement demands that high-income countries go further and faster in radically reducing emissions by no later than the second half of this century. It also requires Governments to reduce emissions on the:

"basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty."

We must reach net zero emissions no later than 2050 to achieve this goal of 1·5°C. The crisis will only increase in magnitude if immediate action is not taken to reduce carbon emissions rapidly. We must also address the fact that, in Northern Ireland, 68% of our emissions are carbon, 22% are methane, 8% are nitrous oxide and the remaining 2% are a variety of other gases contributing to emissions. Separating any of these from the overall emissions grouping is, I suggest, distracting and diverging, and leaves too much scope for variations within what was the original grouping of emissions. In addition to that, it will tie us to an approach not used in other places on these islands.

Right here in Northern Ireland, we must play our part and exercise our global duty. The race to net zero currently drives growth in economic opportunity among our neighbours and competitors. We can no longer be the exception to ambition. If we fall behind now, we stay behind forever. We risk losing out on economic benefits and new green industries with new jobs and export opportunities. There are also ecological benefits, more biodiversity and better air quality, more green space to enjoy, better infrastructure, less climate damage such as flooding, as well as community benefits such as quieter streets, active travel, healthier diets, smart cities, and comfortable, warm homes. We should never limit our ambitions for change or the potential for our sectors, and nor should we underestimate industries and how they might adapt to and with technologies still being developed or still to be brought forward.

In these expectations, we should all be aware of the timescale associated with all those issues and the planning that we are considering. To put it clearly: the target for 2050 is 28 years away. That, at the very least, should be considered as a generation. If we think back a similar period of time, we have to accept that the technologies that are widely available to us today would have been hard to envisage then. It is my hope that all Departments and sectors will work together to protect not only the environment but existing jobs and to bring forward new green jobs.

The Alliance Party is committed to a green and just recovery and an urgent and radical overhaul of the policies and practices that have hindered our progress to date. Today presents us with a historic opportunity to bring Northern Ireland up to pace with other modern democracies and to plan for a safer and healthier future for us and our neighbours, locally and globally. Let us now embrace this opportunity for net zero by 2050.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member address the issue about net zero for Northern Ireland? The specific issue is that, if, instead of exporting food, we rely on imports by decimating our industry and local production, we will increase CO2 emissions, because they will be produced elsewhere. Our agriculture industry is the epitome of sustainability. It is at the top end of low emissions. Does the Member not accept that net zero for the agriculture sector will result in increased global emissions from that sector elsewhere? It will, perhaps, even result in more of the Amazon rainforest being cut down so that Brazil can rear an additional 10 million cattle for export to Europe.

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

I thank the Member for his intervention. I will say two things in response to it. The first is the issue of sectoral plans, which my party has put forward to offer assistance. However, we should deal with that separately. Sectoral plans are not in this group of amendments, so I do not think that it would be proper process for me to engage in debate on that at this point.

The second issue that the Member raised is what the rest of the world is doing. I do not take the view that, because others are doing less or are not doing enough, I do not have to do just as much as I can. I suspect, having heard what I heard, that the Member's view of global responsibility is very different to my view.

As I said, let us now embrace the opportunity for net zero by 2050 with ambition, positivity and hope. Let us do this by setting a single target —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. To "ambition, positivity and hope", will the Member add a scientific basis? We have a scientific basis for what is in the Bill's proposals. Will he give his scientific basis for going further?

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

I have already alluded to the fact that I cannot predict what will happen in 28 years' time or the progress that will have been made along that road. We could not have imagined, 28 years ago, what —

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. Does the Member agree that Wales had set a 95% target but has now agreed to net zero by 2050? In Northern Ireland, different sectors will have to move at different paces. In Scotland, the target date is 2045, and it is no surprise that the level of funding of public transport in Scotland is the highest per capita in the UK. We need to up our game across different sectors in Northern Ireland.

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

That is the type and pace of change that is required, and we should aspire to that.

A Member:

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

I will not. I have tried to close three times, and I do not need to stretch this out any more.

Let us embrace the opportunity for net zero by 2050 with that ambition, positivity and hope. Let us do that by setting a single target for all harmful emissions, free from dissection, distraction and decoupling. Alliance colleagues and I will support the amendments that help us to do that.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I have no doubt, because I have heard it a number of times today, that we will hear an awful lot about science. It is important to begin my contribution by stating that the science on climate change is irrefutable and very, very clear. Global warming is having and will continue to have, if decisive action is not taken, an increasingly devastating impact on our world. As a result of the clear scientific facts, the Paris agreement spelt out that, if we are to limit global warming to 1·5°C, we need, collectively, to reach net zero by 2050. As a legislature in this jurisdiction, that is the science and the ambition that we all need to follow.

Five months ago, the international scientific community released its sixth assessment report on climate, which revealed that, globally, we are already on track to miss the Paris target. The 234 scientists from 66 countries who compiled that report from more than 14,000 scientific papers were unanimous in their decision that the world's Governments are not doing enough and not acting fast enough. That was the stark scientific assessment just five months ago. Minister, 82% will not cut it, I am afraid. We in the North cannot allow ourselves to lag behind on climate. Global warming is not something for others to tackle on our behalf or a problem that impacts only on those living elsewhere. The third climate change risk assessment report, released in June last year, identified 61 specific threats to the North that are caused by climate change. More than half were categorised as being in the most immediate level of urgency, and all but 11 have increased in urgency since the last report. They included, but were not limited to, wildfires, flooding, coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, threats to natural carbon sinks and an increase in pests, pathogens and invasive species. Along with the extreme weather events that we all recognise, those things, if not addressed, will continue to have an impact on us.

On the basis of the science, I will support amendment No 2, which sets a net zero emission target by 2050, and all the amendments that flow from it.

I welcome the fact that the Minister and the Department have introduced climate legislation — I wish that they had done so sooner — but that does not mean that it could not be better. I hope, through the amendments today and tomorrow, that we can move a step closer to having not only a historic Climate Bill but one that we can all be proud of.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. I have listened to his arguments about the science. Obviously, the Member is more interested in the optic, given that he rode his bicycle to the COP in Glasgow. I suspect, however, that he used his car to come here today.

Political opportunism will not save farms in North Antrim. When will the Member opposite and his party show that they genuinely support farmers in less-favoured areas? The Member ran away from a meeting in his constituency to address the issue. Maybe he will come clean and tell the House and, more importantly, his constituents in North Antrim this: is he for farming or for political optics?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin 3:45 pm, 1st February 2022

I thank the Member, I suppose, for his intervention. He makes a very important and valid point on political opportunism, which was also made by Andrew Muir. It was that we need to do things much better than we are. A just transition is vital for rural communities because we need to ensure that no community is left behind. I want to be able to cycle to my place of work, but, because of our infrastructure and lack of accessible public transport, I am unable to do so. That is why I used a car today. Hopefully, if a climate Bill is passed, in 15 years, I will be able to cycle to my place of work.

I have talked about science. I am glad that the Members opposite have discovered science. I see that they have also discovered the meaning of the word "irony". The Member talks about the agricultural community. I should declare an interest, as I have immediate family members who are farmers, I represent a rural community and, at times, I was brought up on a farm.

I am not the one, unlike the Members opposite, who forced Brexit on us. Brexit has led to trade deals with Australia and New Zealand. The other day, at the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, we were told that, within 15 years, when quotas are reduced, the Australian market will be able to displace the whole agricultural sector of this island. Whilst we are discussing net zero targets for greenhouse gas emissions today, the Members opposite have produced a Brexit deal that, in all likelihood, will produce net zero agriculture by 2036 because of their actions. So I will not take any lectures from the Member across the House about protecting rural communities. Sinn Féin will stand on its record of defending rural communities, and we have tabled plenty of amendments to the Bill to protect rural and all other communities in the North as best we can.

I will give way.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

I thank the Member —

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Mr McAleer, please resume your seat for a second.

Let me say this, and, hopefully, I will have to say it only once. There is a Bill in front of Members today. I want people to stick to it and not to talk about cycling to Scotland, Brexit or anything else. Deal with the Bill. Thank you.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for giving way. There will be amendments to try to mitigate the potential impact of the legislation, but I will turn back to the comments that the Member made about its impact on hill farmers. Does he agree that the two biggest threats to hill farming are climate change and the DUP? On top of the shambles that the DUP made of Brexit, it took away the hill farm payment from the hill farmers —

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

— and stopped the transition towards the flat rate —

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

— which has deprived millions

[Inaudible.]

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

Take the plank out of your eyes.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Sit down, please.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Excuse me, Members. Order. I have made an edict, and I want people to stick to it. I do not want to have to repeat it to Members, because I will silence them.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his intervention. He reminded me of a phone call that I received yesterday from a hill sheep farmer in the glens. I had forgotten it, but the Member has reminded me. The farmer was extremely critical of the Minister's agricultural policy proposals. In fact, the words that he used were that the Minister's proposals are "discriminating against" sheep farmers in the glens. The DUP has little to talk about on defending rural communities or farmers in my community. It might serve the DUP to use that argument as a deflection from its bad policy-setting record, but people out there will not be fooled by it.

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. The Member talks about Sinn Féin protecting rural communities. I am very proud of Northern Ireland. I am very proud of our rural communities, and I am very proud of our farming and agri-food sector. Today, the Ulster Farmers' Union tells us that supporting the Climate Change Bill, or even some of the amendments to the Minister's Bill that you will clearly support, could, in effect, jeopardise thousands of jobs in the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland. I speak as a representative of Upper Bann, where a huge amount of the agri-food sector jobs are based. How is that looking after rural communities?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her intervention. As a member of the AERA Committee, I sat through six to eight months of evidence from right across the sectors: businesses, science experts and the agri-food sector. I have listened to and dissected all the arguments that have come before me. Others have made the point that we are not asking people to do something above and beyond what is being achieved elsewhere without the destruction of agriculture. Sinn Féin —

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. On that particular point, I, like you and the Committee Chairman, sat through many hours of evidence, listening to people and the arguments that they made. I thank those people.

The target of 100% by 2050 will not affect just agriculture and agri-food, although they will bear the major challenge of that target. Will the Member advise what types of support, education — I may be straying into what will come later on a just transition — and science will drive it to make sure that people will be able to arrive at that target and change to new and, if you like, more ambitious ways of doing things? As we know, society changes with that. Can the member give me some indication of how that can be done?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his intervention. No matter how much I try to keep a climate Bill debate on the totality of the subject, I always seem to be dragged into a debate about agriculture. I understand the importance of the agri-food sector, and I welcomed Mrs Dodds' intervention on that. Moy Park is obviously very important to my constituency. It is suffering as a result of Brexit in that it cannot get workers. Some of its work has moved elsewhere as a result of the immigration policies of the British Home Office.

The Member asked a specific question. Sinn Féin and others have introduced specific amendments that I hope will be supported when it comes to voting. Those amendments will add protection for every sector. The most important thing about the Bill is that it will not be imposed upon anybody, and particularly that the most vulnerable in our society will not be made to pick up the pieces from it. In my view, a just transition should be central to it, and we will support amendments on just transition.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

No, I will make a few points before I give way again.

We also propose a just transition commission. People have asked how just transition will work. It is important that we bring the sectors — including the agri-food sector, farmers, businesses, trade unions and the public — together to work out how exactly just transition will work under the Bill.

On specific things for agriculture, we have amendments —

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

Sorry. What would a just transition commission look like? How would that be developed against the idea of having a climate change commissioner or a climate change commission, which would be part and parcel? Do you propose a separate organisation or structure? If so, that would probably work against the idea of having a climate commissioner.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

That is a very pertinent question. Unfortunately —

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Mr McGuigan, the Member has asked an important question, but it relates to a later group of amendments. I ask you to stick to the group that we are dealing with. Thank you.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Those issues will be addressed later.

Going beyond a just transition and a just transition commission, we suggest that, when Departments develop carbon budgets, they must take account of, for example, the competitiveness of a particular sector of the economy. That could apply specifically to agriculture. The specific economic and social role of agriculture, including the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane, is another factor that will have to be looked at. There is also the risk of substantial and unreasonable carbon leakage. The Member across the Chamber has made that point a number of times. We are not suggesting that we do anything to impact on our agriculture industry and then import beef. That is important to say. Key to all of this are amendments that we are proposing throughout the legislation to add the protection of public and sectoral consultation and an Assembly vote. I think —

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The Member proclaims himself to be a co-sponsor of Ms Bailey's Bill. That Bill was produced to the House with no economic assessment, and it still does not have one. An economic assessment has now been produced on behalf of the Ulster Farmers' Union. It is the only game in town, as far as economic assessment is concerned. Does he accept it or not? He declined to come to Loughguile even to discuss it.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I take the point. Both Members have stated that as if it is some kind of grand announcement that I did not attend the UFU meeting in Loughguile. They failed to inform the House that I sent my constituency manager along to represent me at that meeting. I rang the gentleman whose farm the meeting was on to apologise and tell him why I was not able to go. I also asked him to arrange a meeting that I would be able to attend and to give my phone number to the farmers who were there in order for them to give me a call. I have been taking calls all week from people in agriculture. I do not know what point you are trying to make about my not attending a meeting. I sent a representative on my behalf. It is not really —

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Tell us about the economic assessment.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am not going to disparage any account, but I note that KPMG did a similar assessment of agriculture in the South. I have made the point that the South is a step ahead of us in moving towards net zero by 2050. It has produced a plan. I can read from its plan that, by 2030, it intends to reduce agriculture emissions by between 22% and 30%.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am going to read this out. Measures include:

"the increased uptake of GHG-efficient farming practices, reducing fertiliser use, increasing the use of clover, multi-species swards, improving animal breeding and reducing the crude protein in the diet, as well as earlier finishing of animals and increase in organics. These measures will be backed by a research programme to bring new technologies and feed additives on stream to aid in reaching our ambitions."

That is what the South is doing over the next 10 years to reduce its emissions from agriculture. If anybody, including KPMG and the Ulster Farmers' Union, is telling me that we cannot do that here in the North over the next 10 years, my God, I am sorry.

Some Members:

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am not giving way any more. I have lost my place. I now have no idea where I am at.

[Laughter.]

As I was saying, I am getting dragged into a debate about agriculture policy. I have made the point that that is the Minister's Department. I wish that he would do a better job than he is currently doing for the hill farmers in the glens of north Antrim. Tackling climate should be a positive discussion. It is a positive thing to do. It will bring many more benefits than it will negatives to the people whom we represent. The citizens of the North are entitled to the best air quality possible, to rivers and lakes free from pollution and to thriving biodiversity. Tackling climate change is necessary to create a resilient and sustainable future. At the same time, it provides economic opportunities, which flow from creating a growing green economy. The debate is not about agriculture or its future. Today is about the Assembly, hopefully, agreeing to move forward on landmark and historic legislation on the North's fightback against global warming.

It will also show the importance that we put on our people and our communities, the way that we will live our lives and the future that we want to provide for our children and grandchildren.

In our amendments, we in Sinn Féin are sending a clear message that, as with all legislation, we are standing up for workers, families and communities across all sectors of the North's society. Ambitious targets are needed to send a signal to business on the way forward. If we do that right, we will allow for confident investment and the creation of new and green well-paid jobs. We can produce the template that prepares our economy for improved competitiveness and economic growth without being prescriptive on future actions.

It is clear that climate legislation will improve air quality. We can seize the opportunity for improved and more efficient public transport in our cities and rural areas. We can improve active travel provision — I can satisfy Mervyn Storey's demand that I cycle everywhere — and policies that impact on climate, congestion and the health and well-being of citizens, ultimately helping to reduce costs and pressures on our health service. Refurbishing buildings will provide big opportunities in the construction industry. Investment in new and emerging technologies will, again, lead to job creation.

In the winter that we have experienced, with rising fuel costs that severely impact on the quality of life of our most vulnerable, who could argue against greater investment in renewable energy sources, helping, ultimately, to reduce costs to consumers but also offering secure supplies to all our citizens? Producing more energy locally from green, renewable sources instead of fossil fuels must be the way forward. Together with increasing energy savings through energy-efficient products and processes, we can end our dependence on fossil fuels.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am coming towards dealing with the amendments, and I have given way plenty.

That is all feasible and affordable. The costs of climate change for the economy and society will be much higher than the cost of fighting climate change now.

Agriculture is important. I have delved into that issue, back and forth, in response to interventions. We all need to remember that agriculture and farmers play a key role in maintaining our land and biodiversity. They are also a critical component of the rural economy. Policies to tackle food etc must put agriculture front and centre.

At this point, I thank the departmental officials for their engagement with the Committee throughout the process and for the work that they have done on the Bill to bring forward some of the amendments. I thank the staff of the Bill Office, who were helpful to us in preparing our amendments. I also thank the Sinn Féin team, who have supported us MLAs during the work on what people might consider to be the most important legislation to be brought to the Chamber.

As I have stated, I do not believe that the 82% greenhouse gas emissions target is ambitious enough. I believe that, today, we can meet the Paris agreement commitments and our ambitions in the North and play our part in the fightback against global warming, with a target of net zero by 2050. Following on from that amendment and the 2050 target, we need targets for 2030 and 2040 to ensure that we have a smooth transition to 2050. In amendment No 6, my party states that the Department must come back with those targets within two years of the Act's passing.

As I have said, one of the issues that we have with the Bill is the amount of power that the Department and, therefore, the Minister will have over all aspects of it to the detriment of future consultation with the public and sectors and certainly to the detriment of accountability to the Assembly and its 90 MLAs. We have sought, by amendment, to address those deficiencies throughout the Bill and have done so in amendment No 6, so that whatever targets the Minister brings for 2030 and 2040 must be approved by the Assembly.

We will support amendment No 9, tabled by the Minister, which will allow for ambitions and targets to be brought forward, should that be agreed.

We have proposed amendment No 15, as we believe that we should be able to explore options for the removal of gas beyond land use and deforestation. There are methods of removing greenhouse gas, including methods of direct air capture. While the technology is expensive, making the amendment will keep our options open, should, as, I expect, will happen, science and technology advance and make progress on cost-efficient methods of reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In amendment No 29, we have again inserted a duty on the Department to carry out a consultation on its carbon budgets. It must consult the public and the climate commissioner, which is a role that we propose in amendment No 73. I will go into detail on that in that section. We also believe that a climate office and commissioner are important to bring local independent oversight and advice to the legislation and all its processes. The carbon budgets are obviously a key component of the Bill, so, when they are being set, we should consult the commissioner, the other Departments and a just transition commission, which we have proposed to set up in amendment No 53. A just transition is absolutely pivotal to the legislation to ensure that no sector of society is left behind, and it follows that we need to ensure that the just transition principles and protections are taken into account when setting carbon budgets. We propose that the Assembly gets to vote on the budgets. That is an important protection.

Perhaps amendment Nos 29 and 30 should have been the other way around, but, regardless, on amendment No 30, we think that, in setting the carbon budgets, all Departments should take advice from the CCC, but, given the nature of this island and our integrated air, environment, rivers, lakes and land, among other things, advice should be sought from the Climate Change Advisory Council in the South too. All that local advice needs to be put in the context of what the IPCC is saying.

Amendment No 32 is lengthy. I read some of it out in response to an intervention from Patsy McGlone. It is a vital amendment. We have put it together taking bits from climate legislation in other jurisdictions, including the South, Scotland, the EU and the United Nations. Again, in setting the carbon budgets, social, environmental and economic factors need to be taken into account, such as the competitiveness of particular sectors of the economy, small and medium-sized enterprises, jobs, employment opportunities and social circumstances, particularly the likely impact of the target on those living in poor and deprived communities.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. On the question of biogenic methane, which you referred to earlier, do you have anything to add? That is particularly important for a number of the sectors that we were talking about, such as the agri-food and agriculture sectors and the science that is driving that. What mitigation measures can be introduced to alleviate that sector — "alleviate" might be the wrong word — to help them or facilitate them?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for the intervention. Setting carbon budgets, along with all the other things, is an important factor that we need to take account of. Some of those are interlinked. Without repeating myself, it is important that we take into account the economic capabilities of our agriculture sector and the fact that we do not want to invite policies that allow for carbon leakage or displace people from rural communities. The important thing with regard to all of those is that, when the policies are developed, an added protection for all sectors of society is that they will be brought back, if our amendments are passed, and MLAs can scrutinise them and vote in favour of them.

That is pretty much me for going through the amendments. Obviously, I have picked out some amendments that we support and other consequential amendments that we do not support. I look forward to the rest of the debate and to debating the other sections.

Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP

I welcome the opportunity to address some of the issues raised in the first group of amendments, which deal with targets, carbon budgets and nitrogen balance sheets. The Bill offers an opportunity to deliver on the commitments in 'New Decade, New Approach' (NDNA) and to create the necessary legislative framework for a balanced pathway towards carbon reduction across Northern Ireland. It is important that the Bill's content is viewed alongside what is already being undertaken by DAERA in the green growth strategy, the draft environmental strategy and the Department for the Economy's energy strategy.

The work that is ongoing shows a clear commitment, particularly by my party colleagues, to advance carbon reduction. It goes without saying that the setting of targets is key to any climate change legislation that will be agreed by the House now or in the future. Indeed, there are two key decisions to be made by Members: first, the date by which our emissions target has to be met; and the minimum reduction that is to be achieved. Those two factors are the major points of difference between the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill and the private Member's Bill in the name of Ms Bailey.

Amendments Nos 1 and 11 testify to the debate between the 2050 and the 2045 cut-off and the percentage reduction rates to be set. The AERA Committee spent considerable time receiving evidence on both those issues. At the outset, I acknowledge the gravity and solemnity of what is involved in the content of those clauses and potential amendments. The dates and percentages approved in the Bill will impact on the lives of many. In some cases, they will likely make the difference between business sustainability and business collapse. People's livelihoods are bound up in the legislation, and the path chosen by Members today will have long-term implications for Northern Ireland and its citizens.

It is fair to say that we are all committed to carbon reduction and to working towards net zero, as legislators and as a society in general. However, we must ensure that we build on firm foundations if we are to effect meaningful and lasting change towards sustainability. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded of the necessity of being guided by the science and the subject experts. There are parallels in that respect when considering legislation — the legislation before us today or, indeed, any legislation. We must be informed and guided by the experts. From the evidence received by the AERA Committee, it is evident that the Department was guided by the science and subject experts when forming this legislation. The 82% carbon reduction by 2050 target in the Bill is evidently grounded in the recommendations and advice of the independent UK Climate Change Committee and is entirely consistent with the Paris agreement. To put it simply, therefore, any path contrary to the goal of 82% by 2050 is not grounded in the sound evidence that has been made available to the House as part of the consultation with the necessary sectors and stakeholders.

Fundamental changes to clause 1, such as those proposed in amendment Nos 1 and 2, have been repeatedly rejected by the CCC and others. As I stated at Second Reading, it is important that we are boldly ambitious whilst retaining a sense of pragmatic realism about our targets. I welcome the fact that the Department is keen to stretch beyond the comfort zone of what could be referred to as "quick win" reductions based on best practice models in the likes of the agriculture sector and into more ambitious quarters such as going beyond 20% decarbonisation. Going on the CCC baseline that stems from the most detailed and scientifically credible analysis of the agriculture sector, methane or CO2 equivalents would reduce from a figure of 6·6 million tons to 4·4 million tons. A target of 33% is a significant reduction that is ambitious but, most importantly, achievable.

What is not achievable is the sort of figures advocated in the amendments tabled in group 1. For Members to advocate targets that will mean an 86% reduction in the national herd, in real terms, is, frankly, scandalous. The economic impact of a reduction in Northern Irish beef cattle, for instance, of over one million by 2045, from 1·3 million to 180,000, would be devastating for rural communities and those whose livelihoods depend on the farming industry. There would be 13,000 job losses at a farm level and £11 billion of lost economic output by 2045. Bankrupt farms and lost livelihoods will be the result of overambition if we fly in the face of realism on those issues.

Of course, unrealistic targets will not just impact on our agri-food sector. It has been evidenced that there would be a much greater risk of fuel poverty should we move away from CCC advice. Climate action should be bound up with sustainability and long-term viability for every sector, including our agri-food sector. I firmly believe that that should be the driver behind our efforts as we strive towards net zero.

Amendments tabled by the Minister take on board issues raised throughout the Bill's passage. I thank him for that, and I support amendment Nos 55 to 75 in the group.

It is incumbent on us all to strike the correct balance between the competing interests of carbon reduction and future economic impacts. The answer is to be found in reliance on the sound evidence of the CCC and the best available science. Such a course of action has support in the agri-food sector, the UFU and elsewhere, including the FSB. For those reasons, I will support the key elements of the Bill as they are.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin 4:15 pm, 1st February 2022

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. At the outset, I thank the AERA Committee for its conscientious work on both climate Bills and to those, including the Minister, who tabled amendments in response to the evidence that was received.

We should not in any way understate the crisis that our planet faces from the climate and biodiversity crises. If we act to mitigate it, it will require a change in how we and future generations live our lives. However, if we put off change and do not act, it will be catastrophic, and the land that we live on and our environment will be unrecognisable within decades. That is what is at stake.

It is critical that we commit to taking action to tackle the climate emergency on the basis of the principles of a just transition. That means ensuring that those who are most likely to be impacted and those who can least afford to move away from fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries are supported to do so and are not left to shoulder the burden. It means that workers and families, particularly those on lower incomes, are supported. We see it currently with the energy crisis. As the price of fossil fuels, including gas, oil and coal, soar, those who are least able to afford new types of equipment to heat or to insulate their homes are most exposed to the fluctuation of those prices. We cannot allow that to happen.

Climate action must be about fairness. The legislation that we pass must be not only ambitious but achievable and fair. We need to have ambitious overall targets —

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. I am interested in what a just transition looks like. The Member just referenced it. I am keen to know whether she has any figures in mind for the cost to the public purse of some of the measures that she has just outlined.

Will the Member also comment on this? In some parts of the European Union, part of that transition means that, for example, the Netherlands is planning to pay farmers over €25 billion not to farm. Is that the Sinn Féin position?

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her intervention. A just transition is detailed in the amendments, but I have outlined the overall principle, which is, of course, ensuring that those who are least able to afford it and are most impacted are supported.

My colleague Philip McGuigan and others have mentioned the fact that there are more ambitious targets in the South and Scotland than in the Minister's Bill. There are, of course, pathways to achieving those. As someone who worked in agri-food research for over a decade and a half, I am well aware of the types of R&D and innovation that are ongoing, and I am confident that we will achieve the targets that we have set out. Of course, we need to have ambitious overall targets, and that means nothing less than net zero by 2050. That is the Paris Accord target and the target on the rest of this island. We cannot shirk our responsibility. We need to do our bit; otherwise, we will be left lagging behind most of Europe. That means worse water and soil quality and greater biodiversity loss.

We need to be led by the science, but, as already mentioned, the CCC is just one group of experts. It has modelled on the basis of specific circumstances and within the parameters that it was asked to mode within. Other scientists have been referred to, particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has pointed to the imperative to act. Its most recent report was dubbed a "code red for humanity". As my colleague Philip McGuigan pointed out, that report was compiled by 234 scientists from 66 countries and concluded that Governments were not doing enough to limit global warming to 1·5°C by the end of the century. Some of our amendments would require cognisance to be paid to those experts also. I urge Members to support those amendments.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Has the IPCC contradicted what the CCC recommended for Northern Ireland? The Member quotes other scientists who have said something. Can she tell us what those other scientists have said about what Northern Ireland has to do? Mr McGuigan accepts the science that gets us to the point where we need to do something on climate change, but he does not accept the science when it comes to what we have to do on climate change.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his intervention. As I outlined, the IPCC has indicated that Governments are not doing enough. The panel is one set of scientists — a considerable set of scientists — who put forward their evidence and came to the conclusion that we need to do more. Otherwise, we will have surpassed the Paris Accord target by 2040.

I turn to the specific amendments. Mr McGuigan has already spoken to some of them, so I will keep my comments fairly brief. I urge Members to support amendment Nos 2 and 6 on targets. Amendment No 29 to clause 11 on carbon budgets requires a 16-week consultation on the proposed carbon budgets and for those proposals to be laid in the Assembly. It gives the Assembly a vote on the approval of those budgets. That provides an additional layer of consultation with the public and all stakeholders and sectors that want to have a say. It also gives future MLAs a say and provides for further accountability on what is contained in the carbon budgets.

Importantly, amendment No 32 inserts new clause 13A. Mr McGuigan outlined some of that. It relates to the setting of carbon budgets, specifically the social, environmental and economic factors that relate to those budgets. The amendment sets out in detail the requirement for consideration to be taken of the impact of our carbon budgets across a number of factors. Those amendments and amendments in other groups are proposed to ensure that particular account is taken of the unique circumstances of our society and our economic make-up and to ensure that the best science leads the decisions. Amendment No 35 requires all Departments to ensure, when developing policies, that those policies are consistent with targets in the carbon budgets.

I have listened to those who have expressed concerns about the climate Bills. It is fair to say that our farming communities have been the most vocal group. Let me say this clearly: Sinn Féin is committed to standing up for our rural communities and family farms. People should look at our track record in doing that. When Michelle O'Neill was the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, she put in place the biggest rural development programme to support our rural communities. She maintained the area of natural constraint (ANC) payment, which was unceremoniously dropped by her DUP successor and has never been reinstated. My colleague Declan McAleer has sought to introduce legislation to do that.

As Ms Bailey referred to, currently, the biggest threat to our rural communities and family farms is Brexit, the loss of EU funding and the fact that there is no replacement funding for rural development. Farmers in my constituency of East Derry, like those in every other constituency across the North, wait anxiously to see what will replace the vital EU subsidies lost to Brexit. There are also the trade deals that the British Government are doing around the world, about which the DUP Minister and MPs have publicly expressed concern.

It is not as if they were not warned that the British Government would do those trade deals to undercut our high-quality food with cheap imports.

Creating a divisive narrative about the need to take climate action and the type of action that we need to take in order to prevent the breakdown of our planet, albeit the narrative is on a much more local level and is about protecting our family farms for future generations, suits the DUP because it puts a focus on something other than its disastrous Brexit agenda.

The legislation that we are debating is about setting a path, and we are proposing to add further safeguards to it. We can send a signal today that we understand that the time for action is now. There are amendments to the Bill that will strengthen it significantly and will ensure that collaboration and consultation are built into the action that will be taken because of the Bill and that account will be taken of all the factors that I have outlined. Later today or tomorrow, those amendments will be debated further, including those on the funding that will be specifically put in place to support the agriculture sector.

We all know that tackling the climate emergency is going to be hugely challenging. There are opportunities, and we need to have greater focus on those positives and on the opportunities to create a different and better society where the well-being of our citizens and our planet is prioritised and on the agenda and where we do not just focus on economic output. Of course, there are opportunities for a new economic dispensation for a green economy that is more resilient to shocks like the pandemic and for green job creation and skills. We should be ambitious now for young people and future generations, but we should also ensure that businesses, workers and communities and the families who are in them are looked after.

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the Bill during the Consideration Stage. I thank the Minister, the officials and all who have been involved in getting the Bill to Consideration Stage for deliberation.

In the New Decade, New Approach agreement, a commitment was given that the Executive would:

"?introduce legislation and targets for reducing carbon emissions ?in line with the Paris Climate Change Accord."

What we have in the Bill is not only in line with the Paris Accord but reflects the targets that were set out by the Climate Change Committee that said that the net NI emissions account for 2050 should be at least 82% lower than the baseline.

While some in the House have aspirations for what the targets should be, it is important that, as legislators, we set targets that are realistic, scientifically based and achievable by our agriculture and business sectors. The agriculture sector in Northern Ireland, which supports around 113,000 jobs, feeds approximately 10 million people and is a key part of the Northern Ireland economy, stands to be worst affected by climate change legislation. However, our farming community is resilient, directly aware of the challenges and not opposed to reducing emissions. Key to all this, however, is credible, evidence-based targets. The Bill's target is set as part of the UK's reaching net zero by 2050, allowing each constituent part of the UK to play its fair part in reaching that goal. I sometimes wonder, as I listen to the debate, whether some of the other parties have an issue with that target simply because it is a UK target. Sometimes when you listen to the debate, you wonder whether that is the reason why there is opposition to the targets that are actually set out in the Bill.

The Climate Change Committee, which carried out detailed modelling and analysis for every sector and region, stated clearly that to reduce targets to net zero before 2050 is not credible, is morally wrong and is not based on scientific evidence. Amendment Nos 2, 3, 5 and 11 are focused on changing the targets that are in the Bill, but there is no scientific evidence to back up that proposed change. No analysis has been done of their delivery, and there is no economic impact assessment of what the proposal will cost or of the devastating consequences it will have for our agriculture industry, our business sector and our citizens. No alternative advice has been forthcoming to counter that which has been provided by the Climate Change Committee.

To deviate from the targets set out in the Bill will be to say to the farming community and to others in the business sector that we in Stormont, as legislators, are in the business of putting you out of business. Is that what Members want to do? I, for one, will certainly not go down that road; I am here to support the business sector and the farming community, not to take forward something that will put them out of business.

Let us weigh up the evidence. The KPMG report makes for very stark reading. I will quote some stuff from it. It says:

"Very small and small farms currently make up 97% of beef and sheep farms in NI. It is likely with the reduction in herds that these small farms will consolidate to try and achieve economies of scale. Farms located in less favoured areas will be likely to be the most impacted farm-type In terms of impacts on farm numbers, beef and sheep farms operating in less favoured areas could see a decrease in farm numbers of 14,800 (-98%). Beef and Sheep farms operating in lowlands could face a fall in numbers of 4,100 (-79%), and the dairy sector could see a decrease of 2,250 (-86%)".

This is alarming:

"With Fermanagh & Omagh, Mid Ulster & Newry, and Mourne and Down accounting for 43% of Northern Ireland farms located on less favoured areas, farming communities in these local authority areas may be most impacted during the initial period of any reduction to overall herd numbers".

Folks, that is what Members will be presiding over should they seek to change the targets that are set out in the Bill.

Livestock reductions of that scale would decimate the agri-food sector and rural communities in Northern Ireland and result in the loss of 13,000 on-farm jobs, plus thousands more in the ancillary industries. Reducing livestock numbers in Northern Ireland and the UK will export our emissions overseas to regions that have higher emissions and lower environmental and animal health and welfare standards, as demand for food, meat and dairy remains. That is likely to result in higher global emissions.

Northern Ireland farmers are among the most carbon-efficient producers in the world. This question has to be asked to Members in the House: do you want to destroy that? We have a business and agriculture industry in Northern Ireland that is one of the very best. If we are not careful about what we do in the House today, we will destroy that. To deviate from the targets set out in the Bill will be to say to the farming community: we are here to put you out of business. This question has to be on everybody's mind as we vote on the Bill: do we want to preside over putting farmers out of business and reducing the agri-food sector to such an extent that our food would be produced in countries with a higher carbon footprint, such as Brazil? It was reported this week that, in Brazil, 13,235 square kilometres of rainforest were cleared in 2020-21. That is the stark choice before the House.

Today, I have heard many Members talk about the need to ensure that we leave a legacy that we can all be proud of for our children and grandchildren. Let us do that, and let us not destroy it by bringing in something that is going to put our farmers and our farming community out of business.

My colleague William Irwin has ably outlined our position on the other amendments, and I do not intend to repeat it. I have focused somewhat on the agriculture industry, but the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill goes wider than that. It will, of course, affect urban areas as well, and it will have an impact on those areas. Capital investment will be required to move to new heating systems, but the difficulty is that, if we move too quickly, that will result in the replacing of equipment before it has come to the end of its life. We would therefore be defeating the purpose, with the consequence of having a greater carbon footprint. There would be a real risk of increasing fuel poverty for those in society who are suffering the most, and there would be an impact on the Northern Ireland taxpayer.

Those are the issues that are before the House. We have a choice to make. You have a choice to make. Everyone who is sitting in the House has a choice to make. Do Members want to destroy what we have, or do they want to support what we have and strengthen it as we move forward? I hope that Members will reconsider and that they will think long and hard before going through the Lobbies. I hope that they will do what is right and support the Minister and the Bill that is before the House. We are here as legislators to provide good legislation. Let us be known for doing that by doing that which is right in the House today.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party 4:30 pm, 1st February 2022

I was struck by Mr Buchanan's comments, particularly those around where we are at, in the here and now. He spoke about fuel poverty. I have just seen that one of the gas companies is due to increase the cost of gas, very significantly, again, in the near future. We talk about societal issues and societal changes. That increase will make people who are facing fuel poverty inevitably and increasingly dependent on coal and sticks. That is the anomaly that we have. Those are the difficulties that will arise: that is the practical reality.

I have listened to the debate intently, and I was listening earlier. The Committee took a lot of evidence on the matter. Net zero by 2045 was an extremely ambitious target. We heard of the serious difficulties that that would create for many sectors in the community. The SDLP welcomes the Consideration Stage of the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill. As the SDLP representative on the AERA Committee, I will speak on the group 1 amendments.

It has been a very long road to get here. I am sure that many who sat on the Committee thought that we were on two roads, and, at one stage, we hoped that there was a single destination and that we were coming to that single destination by different pathways, but, unfortunately, that was not to be the case. At least we have a climate change Bill at Consideration Stage, but, unfortunately, we did not achieve common ground. The Bill raises a huge number of issues for us, because all of us are going to have to make big changes in our lives. I was brought up in a rural area, I live in a rural area and I like to think that I keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening in that area, but the challenge for all of us, not just for the agri-food and agriculture sectors, is very significant, irrespective of whether there is an 82% or 100% target.

Later on in the debate, we will come to just transition and oversight commissioners, both of which are key pillars in how we manage climate change, how we try to reach our targets and how we try to help people transition to the new way of living. All of us have seen this in our constituencies when we have been out. I have been in a house that had just been built, in which the water had come up three feet high when the River Moyola broke its banks. I have stood in Magherafelt at 1.30 am as flash flooding went through people's houses in areas where that had never, ever happened before. The Chairman of the Committee and Mr McCrossan have seen the ravages of it in their constituency, down the Glenelly valley.

Those are but pictures. We have seen from the world that the scientific evidence is undeniable. How we get to the point of making our contribution to that is the vital bit. We are definitely behind the curve in taking responsibility for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in the North. We can all talk about why that is — lack of motivation, three years of legislative scrutiny missed — but that is the reality. It is over 10 years since the UK introduced the Climate Change Act, and it is over six years since my party colleague from Foyle Mark Durkan, when he was the Environment Minister, proposed a climate action Bill. The delay has been caused by a combination of the resistance to putting the necessary legislation in place and, as I referred to, the three years during which the Assembly was not sitting, which prevented the introduction of any legislation.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

Thank you, Mr McGlone. Will you agree with me that one of the reasons for the delay has been that a significant number of politicians, particularly from the DUP, have been espousing climate change scepticism and denying that this is a problem until only recently? Even now, we take with a pinch of salt some of their conversion and understanding that this is a real issue that we need to face.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Yes, indeed. I remember that, when I was Chair of the Environment Committee, we had a motion of no confidence in the then Minister Sammy Wilson over his scepticism around climate change. It is reality and a fact, and you cannot get away from it.

I have listened carefully to the evidence presented to the AERA Committee, and I thank all those who contributed to that process. I see that some of the officials are with us here today, and I was speaking to them down in the canteen earlier. The impact on society and our economy of the changes required to achieve those targets could be a serious challenge for us. That is where those other pillars, the oversight commissioner and the just transition, have to come in.

I would really welcome some clarification around amendment No 2. Later on, we have a proposal for a special committee on climate change. If targets are set now, how or in what way will the mechanism operate whereby those targets could be reviewed to see whether the targets are in fact being met? Secondly, if those targets are successfully met, what would the mechanism be for them to be made more ambitious? If, in some sectors, those targets are not being properly met, can mechanisms be put in place and what would those be within the Assembly's legislative scrutiny to determine what action could be taken? I am hearing that, in Scotland, which did set itself an ambitious target, some of the MSPs are finding a bit of a difficulty with meeting those targets.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Mr Durkan previously asked a question about health service targets. Of course, in the health service, targets are in place for emergency departments. I think that they have to meet a target of seeing 95% of people within four hours, there are to be no 12-hour waits and so forth. There are also lots of targets on waiting lists for people receiving primary care and so forth. Is that what people are really asking for in this Bill — that we set some aspirational targets and we engage in a game of bluff with the general public? We would be saying, "Look at how grand we were. We set a 100% target by 2050". We would be doing that in the full and certain knowledge that we were not going to be able to meet it.

I pose that question not just to the Member who was speaking but to all Members of the House. I thought, when Mr Durkan raised it, that it was a valid point: we have targets in other areas, but they are not targets; they are aspirations. Is it not more honest to take the science and say, "This is what can be achieved, and therefore that is what we are going to do. If we can do more, we will do more"?

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party 4:45 pm, 1st February 2022

The Minister takes me to an interesting analogy with the health service, given that we are coming through a pandemic. The analogy that I will draw is that, when people go to the GP, they are advised to follow a certain lifestyle and that, if they follow a different lifestyle, they will wind up in hospital earlier. I suggest that, in this case, the GP for climate will be the commissioner, with oversight from the Assembly. It is an interesting analogy, and it definitely has parallels when we come to think about the climate and our contribution to it. We make a contribution to our health, and we make a contribution to the climate, which we can, in fact, help.

That brings me to my next point. We are not dealing with cold data. We are living, breathing human beings. Generations of the same family have, in many cases, worked the same ground. I have heard that raw emotion from families when I have visited their farms. We know that the land question in Ireland is very historic. When you go to people's farms, you hear the emotion from them: "It was left to me by my father, and it was left to him by his grandfather". It is that legacy — that tradition — of something handed to the next generation for them to take care of and look after. As they do that, times change. They do not want flooding on their ground. They do not want to see animals and birds — whatever those might be — leaving their ground. We know that birds are migrating to other areas because of the change in the climate. The pollination of the ground and the different types of insects that inhabit our earth — all of that — have been affected by climate change. People do not want to see that. The younger generation are very conscious and aware of that, and many of them live on farms too. There are new methods, changes and new challenges. These are challenges for us all, and it is important for us to face up to them. The great mid-Ulster poet Seamus Heaney came from a proud farming tradition and paid tribute to that farming work.

People — all of us, farmers included — want to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and many of them already do so. In some cases, they go even further than what would be regarded as their fair share. As a representative of a rural consistency, I share the concerns about the impacts on rural communities and the rural economy if we choose to set an unrealistic target of 2045. If we set a new target, we need to make sure that, as part of the target-setting mechanism, we have oversight and scrutiny as the science develops.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will just make this point, Declan.

We need to make sure that that oversight mechanism is fit to keep pace with the science as it develops and to see how we can develop new things. There will be a pivotal role in this for the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and our universities. It is a challenge to them, but I am sure that they can step up to the mark and do that and work with us all to achieve it.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for taking the intervention. One of the amendments that we put in — I think that the Committee proposed the amendment to the Climate Change Bill as well — proposed that the five-year climate action plans can come about only through co-design and working with the wider sector and after a 16-week consultation and that they must be subject to an equality impact assessment, an economic impact assessment and a rural needs impact assessment before they are ultimately agreed by the Assembly. Does the Member agree that that co-design aspect and working in partnership with all of the sectors, rather than imposing things on people from here, should be a crucial part of the legislation?

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

It has to be. I thank the Member for making that point. Go raibh míle maith agat. Unfortunately, the debate has been narrowed down to farming and agri-food. I cannot emphasise it enough: this affects every conceivable walk of life. With that come responsibility and a challenge to all those walks of life to see how we can do things differently. The oversight mechanism will be crucial, because, unless we hear from the people most affected, we will not know how we are facing up to the challenges, meeting targets or adapting to new ways of doing things, which is also vital. That is my next point.

Bringing people with us is essential to achieving the reduction in emissions required to meet our international obligations. That is clearly the work of more than one generation. We heard it referred to as a long-term project. No one who heard the evidence that the Climate Change Committee chair, Lord Deben, gave to the AERA Committee can doubt his commitment to addressing climate change through meeting the international obligations that all countries have signed up to. I came at that from a different point of view. I was expecting something from him that was different from what we got. I was expecting former Tory Minister John Gummer. I was expecting him to be in a different place from the one that he was in, but he challenged us all with his evidence that day.

It is an expert technical advisory body that provides advice on carbon budgets and targets, progress reports on meeting those targets and assessment of climate change risks and opportunities. It, too, would have to fit in with what Mr McAleer proposed. It brings that expertise, as will our local universities. It will be challenging for everyone in all sectors, and it will require more than just the new technological solutions that people appear to be relying on. It is about ways of life. It is about science. It is about technology, surely, but it is also about skills, awareness, training, our universities, our science and how all those work together to help us to transform society and to meet the challenge of the climate change crisis that faces us.

The SDLP believes that it is desirable to achieve a net zero society. On CO2, we can certainly achieve net zero by 2050. We support amendment No 9. I believe that amendment No 10 will not be moved. Is that correct, Clare? Did you say that amendment No 10 would not be moved? If I have picked it up wrongly, forgive me.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Member indicated that he believes that net zero can be achieved by 2050, but the scientific evidence presented indicates that that will mean a huge reduction in farmed animals that produce methane. How does he propose to deal with that? Will we virtually end a lot of farming in Northern Ireland, or is he proposing expensive carbon capture mechanisms?

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I said that we could achieve net zero on CO2 by 2050. I am trying to tease out the other aspect of amendment No 2, which is how, by 2050, we can meet net zero full stop.

We support amendment Nos 9 and 10, which would ensure that emissions target dates can only be brought forward and that, for any year, only a higher percentage target can be set. We also support amendment No 16, to limit the use of carbon units in the net Northern Ireland emissions account for any given period.

Amendment No 29 introduces the reasonable requirement to consult the public and the climate change commissioner and just transition commission on carbon budgets. We also support amendment No 30, which requires the Department to consult the UK Climate Change Committee, the Republic's Climate Change Advisory Council and the IPCC when setting carbon budgets. We also support amendment Nos 32 and 35, requiring the Department to take account of social, environmental and economic factors when setting carbon budgets. Amendment No 34 introduces, for the first time, nitrogen balance sheets to record nitrogen use efficiency. That is another welcome measure.

Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the group 1 amendments as the Ulster Unionist Party's agriculture, environment and rural affairs spokesperson. We have already heard from Steve Aiken, who is our party's climate change spokesperson.

I thank all those who gave evidence to the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. It has been a long and tiresome road, but we have got through it. I also thank the Committee staff, who worked with us as we scrutinised the Bill in the various sessions.

I turn to the first group of amendments for consideration. The Ulster Unionist Party supports the Bill's target for Northern Ireland to commit to an 82% reduction by 2050. We will vote against any amendments to the contrary. Farming and the agri-food industry are vital to Northern Ireland. We send nearly half of our produce to Great Britain, and we feed 10 million people across the UK annually. The agri-food sector is critical to rural areas and to balanced regional development. A recent independent review of the sector found that 86% of agri-food processors are based outside Belfast and almost 26,000 farm businesses operate in rural areas. We have to think about those of us who live in rural areas when we look at the amendments and what they may mean. Consequently, we call on all Members who value our farmers and the agri-food sector to vote with us against amendment Nos 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8.

We are comfortable with the Department's amendment No 4, which sets it out 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."

Consequently, we will vote against amendment No 5. We will support new clause 1A to insert targets for 2030 and 2040, but we will vote against amendment Nos 7 and 8.

The Minister and others make sensible amendments from amendment Nos 9 to 17 on carbon dioxide emissions and targets, and we will be pleased to support them.

Northern Ireland has already achieved ambitious renewable energy targets, but we support new clause 10C in amendment No 20 to target 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

We continue to support the appointment of a climate commissioner, and we will support further amendments later in the Bill. However, we do not approve of amendment No 29.

Amendment Nos 30 and 31 are sensible additions to the Bill, and it is proper that we pay due regard to the expert bodies outside Northern Ireland,

Carbon budgets are an essential part of climate mitigation, and we will support new clause 13A in amendment No 32. We appreciate the fact that nitrogen balance sheets are another useful tool, but we are concerned that the 18-month time period in new clause 15A in amendment No 34 is too prescriptive. We will vote against amendment No 34 unless that timeline can be increased, but we are content with amendment No 35.

The Minister has made minor changes in amendment Nos 55 to 59, amendment Nos 64 to 66 and amendment No 75, all of which we will support.

As we make our way through the Bill, it is most important that targets are achievable, realistic and not aspirational. Our targets must be scientifically based. Our farmers and our agri-food sector must not be severely impacted by the Bill.

(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Stalford] in the Chair)

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance 5:00 pm, 1st February 2022

It is incumbent on me to comment on the Bill generally as it has progressed so far. My colleague Mr Blair set out where my party stands on the Bill and indicated which amendments we will support and those that we feel it is not appropriate to support at this time.

In this group of amendments, I want to deal specifically with amendment No 20, which is the renewable electricity consumption target. The amendment that colleagues and I propose is that the Department for the Economy should ensure that at least 80% of electricity consumption is from renewable sources by 2030. Some people have expressed surprise that we have raised this with another Department in this debate. This is a holistic Bill. It is about climate change. It is about delivering change for everyone, regardless of where government comes from. When we come to the group 2 amendments, there will be a wider-ranging discussion on that aspect. This is a narrow area: it requires the Department for the Economy to increase our consumption of renewable electricity. It is not an impossible call; in fact, it is very realistic. During the past decade, energy policy has become increasingly focused on the renewables sector. We have seen that time after time with initiatives that have taken place. We see the impact of wind farms across our landscape. There are those who do not like them, but there are many who like gazing at them as they produce and deliver energy for our homes across Northern Ireland.

A massive transition will take place from fossil fuels to green electricity, which will be one of the key drivers in providing energy. It is surprising, or perhaps not, that, in the last couple of days — in fact, on 30 January — Northern Ireland produced 1,042·96 MW of power from wind, exceeding all previous achievements and targets. We currently produce somewhere around 46% of our electricity from renewables, most of it from wind, and other sources include solar. The move to 80% will not be that difficult. There are opportunities through the Department's energy strategy, which the Economy Minister has brought forward. This is very much low-hanging fruit. That is why it is important that it is included in the Bill. It sends out the message that we are all in this together in attempting to achieve these changes.

We have proved that we can make that impact. Our renewables electricity sector has demonstrated that. It makes that impact today and every day in Northern Ireland. There is much more to be done. Onshore wind is somewhat less predictable than offshore wind. There is a much greater flow of wind offshore. Our energy strategy demonstrates that that is the next step that we need to take. As I understand it, arrangements have been made with the Crown Estate to ensure that that can be achieved, and we look forward to being able, very quickly, to develop offshore wind. That will take us way beyond that which we have been achieving in the last few days, months and over a reasonable number of years. It makes the target of 80% consumption achievable.

For me, it will end the inequity of a coal-fired power station in my constituency of East Antrim. It is already under threat because it does not meet the emission standards. It would be very difficult for it ever to meet them, and I look forward to it transitioning. This is important. A series of companies has owned and managed that power station, and those companies have been doing very innovative things such as battery storage, which is vital to delivering at times of peak demand, such as teatime, when power is needed quickly across Northern Ireland.

There is much to be done. I commend amendment No 20 to the House. I encourage us all to support it, because it is a very achievable target.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill. A number of Members have alluded to the fact that there are two Climate Change Bills, and we need to recognise why there are two. The Minister had no intention of bringing forward his Climate Change Bill had Clare Bailey not brought forward a private Member's Bill. That does not remove the fact that we appreciate that the Minister has now moved to the point of bringing forward a Bill. It would have been much better if he had done so sooner so that we would not be in this position.

A Member:

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

No. I agree with the Member for Mid Ulster Patsy McGlone about there being a pivotal role in this for our universities. My concern is how we are going to fund them. My colleague Caoimhe Archibald spoke about the fact that, in a previous life, she worked in the R&D sector and that that role was funded through European funding. I have concerns about whether that funding will be replaced, because that is where the vital work that will help our farmers happens.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. A lot of us who sit in the AERA Committee in particular, and, I am sure, on other Committees, hear about the prosperity fund that was promised, although Boris Johnson has promised so many things. Our concern is that that is not just a similar promise to that which was on the side of that big red bus.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

I think that the Member has been reading my mind, or maybe it is because we are both from Mid Ulster, but I intended to reference the fact that we are putting our faith in a party that followed somebody who put signs that had all sorts of promises on the side of a red bus. We saw where that got us and where ignoring the true facts got us.

Members have talked during the debate about the fact that it will be a number of generations before we realise the benefits of the Bill. I remember that when I was a child, which is not that long ago, people were talking about climate change. It is a while ago, but not that long. I remember watching programmes and being a bit frightened about what it meant but not really understanding it. We talk about the fact that there have been delays in addressing climate change. I am 45, so there has been a fair delay. I am talking about over 30 years ago. We are well past the time to deal with the issue.

R&D is really important for all sectors. There has been a lot of reference today to the farming sector. As someone from a farming family who is deeply steeped in the farming tradition, and as a representative for a massive rural and farming community and constituency, I understand very well the challenges that farmers face. I understand the challenges that they faced in recent years when Lough Neagh flooded and homes, farmlands and animals were absolutely decimated. Climate change is a massive threat to our farmers. They recognise that we need to do something, and we recognise that we need to support them so that they can deal with it. How do we help them to change how they do things? That is where R&D comes into it and where it is vitally important.

I believe that net zero emissions is the bare minimum. As I said, people have been talking about this subject all my life, and nothing has been done. To go for anything less than that is just unthinkable. I have a young daughter, and I hope that she will see in her lifetime the difference that will be made by the Bill that we pass in the Assembly and by future legislation that will, hopefully, be even more ambitious. As others have said, we have all sorts of innovative projects, innovative ideas from people, changes in science and all those things that will happen to make the change easier and allow it to happen.

If our produce comes from an area with lower environmental standards, that will be a challenge for our farmers, because who will want to trade with them? Who will want to buy their food? Very basically, as someone who goes into a shop to buy meat, I am fussy about where I buy my meat and where it comes from. I am fussy about how those animals were reared, how they were killed and how that meat was processed.

It is important to people. From my time on the AERA Committee, I know that the Minister is very keen on high productivity. It is, therefore, a wee bit disingenuous to talk about the DUP's concern for the hill farmers. There was no concern for them, because they were not producing enough to be considered worth assisting and financing. They were helping us to protect the environment in those hill areas, but they were not being supported to do so.

If we are to play our part in averting a global catastrophe, protect our local environment and protect the health and well-being of our population, net zero is the bare minimum. We have a responsibility to ensure that we deliver climate change legislation, because, when it is too late, it is too late — there will be no going back. We will not be able to turn back the clock, and our children and grandchildren will pay a very high price for our negligence.

All of it must be delivered in a fair and balanced manner that protects and supports our farming communities. They are, as has been said, the custodians of the land, and they will play a central role. For that reason, it is important that they be consulted and are very much part of the development of any action plan. We have a responsibility to protect everyone: all those who work across our community and their families.

I will refer to Mr Muir's point on the transport network in Scotland. I was able to test that network a few years ago, and Mr Muir is right: it is excellent. In the most rural areas, in the middle of nowhere, you are within a couple of minutes of a train station. Here, transport in our rural areas is like that in a developing country.

Other Members have mentioned the need for the Bill to be more ambitious. Stewart Dickson referred to the need for the Bill to be all-encompassing and holistic. That is absolutely what we need. I speak as somebody who left Newry one day to travel to Coalisland on a bus. It took five hours to make a 40-minute journey. That is the transport that we have in our rural areas. For one hour of that time, I sat in Newtownhamilton on a bus while the bus driver went home and we waited for another bus driver to come. That was grand, because I had time to sit there, but, in the real world, it is not acceptable.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

Absolutely, yes.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

The Member touches on quite an important issue. In the first group of amendments, we are debating targets. We are being told why we cannot achieve net zero by 2050. There is a lot of debate on that, and I respect the different views that have been expressed. We have to pull ourselves back from that, however, and ask, "Why are we debating this? Why are we saying that we cannot achieve that target?". The reason is that there is a lack of ambition in Northern Ireland. We have a transport system that, we were told, had real issues of sustainability until it got some money through a monitoring round a number of weeks ago. Its financial future is not secure. If we are to be real about tackling climate change, we will need to put our money where our mouth is and invest to make those changes in Northern Ireland. Other parts of the UK have managed to do it; we can do it here as well.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for the intervention. He is right: that is exactly what we need to do. We need to be more ambitious. As I said, it particularly impacts on our rural communities. When I see ambitious transport plans, they sometimes do not include our rural communities. They talk about the towns and cities, and they forget about us. In many of our villages and towns, if people do not have a car, they have no transport links whatsoever. That is why we are in the position of asking for additional road networks and work to be done to roads. That is not acceptable. We should have better transport links. We should have the potential to get on a bus or a train to go to our place of work and not have to rely on a car.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for giving way. The whole issue of connectivity and rail and other public transport has to be taken into account, but there is another element to it. We spoke earlier about fuel poverty. I have a concern, which I have raised at the Committee. We often talk about electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

That is one thing. There is an absence of EV charging points. There are not enough of them. Furthermore, the cost of some of those cars is absolutely prohibitive for many people in rural areas.

There is therefore that additional issue of what you might call mobility poverty: a lack of access to mobility. Members know as well as I do that some people live in areas where there is not a chance of a bus coming down their road or anywhere near their road. They are therefore reliant on their diesel or petrol car, which may be 10, 12 or 15 years of age, if it has repeatedly got through the MOT, to take them to and fro. That is another aspect of poverty: access to mobility and, as a result, to services.

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin 5:15 pm, 1st February 2022

Absolutely. That is where the Bill presents an issue for more than just farmers in rural areas. We need an ambitious climate change Bill that addresses all the issues that our rural communities face.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

Will the Member take an intervention?

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

You are very generous with the interventions, Linda.

Does the Member agree that fairness and justice are at the heart of our conversations about climate change? A lot of Members have talked about the importance of young people. From all the evidence-gathering sessions of the AERA Committee — I should have expressed my thanks to the staff for putting everything together and to the people who attended — I remember the young people the most. We held over 52 evidence-gathering sessions and met separately over 300 pupils in schools. I was at every one of those engagements except for one, as a consequence of a family bereavement. In all of that, the young people stuck out the most.

In 2050, I will be 76 years of age. I hope, if God spares me, that I will still be alive, that my children will be adults and that I will have grandchildren. This climate legislation is about trying to balance the levels of emissions that we produce against what we sequester. If we go for 82%, come 2050, when we have grandchildren, the children of Scotland, Wales, England and the South of Ireland will have reached 100%. Their air will be much cleaner. There will be less nitrous oxide and methane in the air. Why should we sit here and tell our future generations that it is OK for the children of the North to have that lesser-quality air whilst the rest have better-quality air?

The other principle of fairness —

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Sorry, Mr McAleer. You are on the speaking list, so you will get to make all those points.

[Laughter.]

Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin

Thank you for the intervention. I am glad that I inspired such a heartfelt speech.

[Laughter.]

I am going to end my speech, but I agree with Mr McAleer that this is about fairness. It is about delivering for future generations. It is hopefully about delivering for this generation as well, but it is absolutely for future generations: for my children, for, hopefully, my grandchildren and for yours. That is what we are here to do. We are here to deliver. It is not about us today but about what we leave as a legacy for those in the future.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

I call Mr Matthew O'Toole.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. That was in the nick of time.

Others, including my colleagues Patsy McGlone and Cara Hunter, addressed the group 1 amendments in detail. I will touch on them, but I will talk about the general principles of the amendments in the group and about my party's feelings about the Bill and the amendments.

Being a legislator is an immense privilege. In a parliamentary democracy, the most fundamental way that we have of effecting meaningful change is through legislation: making law. Laws change when those of us who have that privilege come here and vote for that change to happen.

Change is already happening to our climate. Climate change and, indeed, climate breakdown are happening. They are happening not just in far-off parts of the world but here on this island. Floods, wildfires and coastal erosion are an increasing part of our lives, and particularly of the lives of those who work in our farming and rural communities. There are fires in the Mournes and in the Kerry mountains. There is flooding across all our constituencies. Large parts of this city — the city that I represent — are at increased risk of flooding because of climate change. A significant chunk of that flooding will happen, whatever we vote for today and whatever we are able to deliver by way of limits to temperature rises. In a sense, we are dealing today with our best effort at limiting climate change, but climate change is happening and will continue to happen. Many residents in parts of Belfast already have to live with the consequences and prepare for possible future consequences.

As I said, we come here every day to debate issues such as that. We also debate issues that are vitally important to our constituents, such as the delivery of public services, whether that is in the health service, education, roads, or public transport. We also, virtually every day in this place, debate questions of identity and allegiance that are particular to this place. They may be exhausting at times, but they matter to people. However, nothing — nothing — matters more than this issue. Nothing matters more than ensuring that we, in this jurisdiction, take demonstrably ambitious and meaningful action on the climate emergency. Nothing matters more to young people, especially. Young people are watching us today to find out whether we will, finally, take action in this place on the crisis that could shape all of their lives. We have not taken that action so far. Not to be too blunt about it, many of us sitting in the Chamber will not be here in 2050. For that matter, many of us will not be here in 2045. I do not say that to be morbid or anything else. I am not trying to be —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

It is just to cheer us all up.

Photo of Matthew O'Toole Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party

Indeed. There is a serious point. It is about the responsibility on all of us to legislate for future generations. We are not legislating for the here and now. It is not enough to say that we are grand and that other parts of the world, indeed the rest of these islands, can crack on and deliver on particular targets, including net zero, and we will go our own way. The truth is that, for far too long, we have been nowhere on these issues, at least in relative terms. It has been said repeatedly today that Northern Ireland has been a laggard. We have. We are the only part of these islands without a net zero target by 2050 in law. We are the only part of these islands without any climate change legislation. It was mentioned earlier by my colleague Patsy McGlone that our other colleague Mark H Durkan was one of the first Ministers to bring forward climate action legislation here. That did not make progress. For the three years that the Assembly was down, no progress was made. That places a particular burden on all of us to take seriously the responsibilities that lie on us.

There are a large number of amendments in group 1. I will not be speaking to all of them in detail. I thank the members of the AERA Committee for their detailed scrutiny. Many people in the Department have done detailed work in that regard. I do not agree with everything in AERA, but I know that serious, detailed work has been done by the Department and the AERA Committee, and by Clare Bailey, on her Climate Change Bill, of which my colleague is a co-sponsor. I will not speak to every single amendment in detail or give an indicative position or view on all of them because others have done, and will do, that. However, I will touch on the broad subject of targets, on which, primarily, the debate has focused today. Indeed, it is the essence of the group 1 amendments.

I will touch on what has been said by the Climate Change Committee, or the committee on climate change — I do not know whether there is a particular formulation that is right or wrong — which is led by Lord Deben and was established by the Labour Government. Its advice includes a target of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions "by at least 82%". The important thing that has, sometimes, been missed out in today's debate is that it says "at least". It does not say that it would be wrong for Northern Ireland to go beyond 82%. As the Climate Change Committee also notes in its letter, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have gone beyond that.

I support many of the amendments that are being debated today. I will not go through them all in detail. I will support the maximum possible ambition in relation to the setting of targets, but I also want to address one of the other broad issues that has emerged from the debate. It is incumbent on us to deal with it, because, while it is critical and urgent that we take the most ambitious action possible, it is also important that we address the concerns that some people in the farming community have.

Earlier, Clare Bailey mentioned that the faming community is going to be completely critical to dealing with climate change. That is true. It will also be among the sectors that are most devastated by climate change in particular areas. I represent an urban constituency. It is pointed out by others, including, sometimes, the Agriculture Minister, that I represent an urban constituency. Before that, I lived in London. However, I am from a farming background. I come from a small family acreage in County Down that is still in my extended family. I care about those communities. I care about farming and the amazing contribution that farmers make. I do not see any contradiction between our having maximum and real ambition for dealing with climate change and celebrating and protecting farming and rural communities.

The truth is that we will all have to deal with change. Climate change is happening. It is forcing change upon us. We all have to be real about the responsibility and urgency that is on us to deal with it. I hope that this debate and the further stages of the Bill will mark a fundamental step forward for this place. Too often, people outside this place are completely despairing of our ability to deliver meaningful change. This is perhaps the most important opportunity to deliver change that we have had since we returned in 2017 — sorry, the place fell in 2017; since we returned in 2020. We should be really serious about that responsibility, because, as I say, people outside this place are not filled with confidence about our capacity as legislators to take action to improve their lives and deal with the most urgent problems of this century. It is incumbent on us all to use that responsibility to try to address that lack of confidence. I hope that today and, indeed, in the weeks ahead, we can continue to do that with this legislation.

Photo of Colm Gildernew Colm Gildernew Sinn Féin

It has been an interesting debate. I come from a faming background. My father is a farmer, and my brother continues to run the family farm. I live in a rural community, and I ran a small engineering business in a rural community for many years. I am concerned that, to some degree, it appears that this is almost being set up as a choice between taking action on the climate and farming. It actually has to be both. It is absolutely clear that we need to take action to deal with the climate crisis that we face, but it is equally clear that we cannot do that in a way that is unjust or that impacts unjustly on anyone, including farmers and small businesses.

Farmers will actually bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. They can see that happening all the time. However, I think that farmers and small businesses actually see themselves as being at the cutting edge of how we move forward and develop solutions. Even 20 years ago, in our own business, we had already moved on to manufacturing environmental and recycling products. We have an entire industry in the south Tyrone and mid-Ulster area that exports environmental and recycling equipment all around the world. Innovation, ingenuity and those types of solutions will, I believe, be brought to bear here.

We speak to farmers every day of the week. It is clear that they are up for the challenge. They are family people too. They want their children and grandchildren to grow up in an environment that is fit to support them, where they can thrive and that they can enjoy. We are talking about targets in this section of the Bill. My own experience in business taught me that, if you did not have a target, and if it was not challenging, you did not know where you were trying to get to and could not build in the steps that you needed to take.

Those targets are important, and it is crucial that we ensure that they are achievable but also challenging. It is appropriate that they are challenging, given what we have learnt in the past and given the more our understanding has grown of the severe issues that are going on with the climate.

I also agree that we need to play our part to the full and not look for excuses about why we should reduce our targets. We should go for targets that are credible, realistic and achievable. We should support farmers, rural communities, small businesses —

Photo of Colm Gildernew Colm Gildernew Sinn Féin

I am finishing up. I have heard several interventions of a very similar nature, and, after the first repetition or two, it was clear that they did not add much to the debate. We absolutely need to speak up for rural communities and protect them, but we also need to protect the climate.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

First, I declare that I own 25 acres of agricultural land that I let out. I also provide voluntary assistance to my parents with their small farming enterprise. That is like having a free gym membership.

I welcome the Consideration Stage of the Northern Ireland Climate Change (No. 2) Bill. We are far behind other regions of the UK, and we have a long distance yet to travel to deliver our fair share of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We need to ensure that we carry our fair share of that and contribute to global and UK net zero by 2050.

A Northern Ireland climate change Act is long overdue. I credit the Member who introduced the private Member's Bill for forcing the Department's hand. I suspect that, were it not for that, we would not be standing here today debating a Bill that has been through the Executive and has had considerable thought and scrutiny given to it. I credit her to the extent that we are in the process of enacting legislation that will start to address that.

A Climate Change Act was passed at Westminster in November 2008. The UK set out a pathway to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That was the first global legally binding climate change mitigation target set by any country. When I hear some of the critical comments that are being made by some about unambitious targets, I am quite surprised. The UK has led the world on the issue.

Scotland has had a Climate Change Act since 2009 and recently updated its targets to include a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 90% by 2040. Scotland is well ahead of us. It is13 years ahead of us, and, on top of that, it has a particular land mix topography. It has hydroelectricity and extensive wind farms. It is able to set those ambitious targets, and it is now aiming for net zero by 2045. Every region of the UK is different, and the particular topography and circumstances around Scotland, with the thousands of acres of moorland that is not being farmed, creates different opportunities, particularly for forestry, which we do not have to the same extent.

In 2016, Welsh legislation was introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and, in February 2021, after five years of planning and actions and seeing how its process worked, it decided that it was able to update its targets, and it is now planning to achieve net zero by 2050. Wales has been at this for five years. It has particular circumstances that are different from ours. From its experience of working the system, it then decided to bring its targets forward.

Obviously, the UK has a climate change target to be neutral by 2050. <BR/>Many countries talk about reducing emissions, but the UK has delivered significant reductions in emissions and set credible legislative pathways to achieve that.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Previously, Mr McGuigan tried to tell the House that Ireland was leading the way. Over time, the Member will probably get the point that the UK has already considerably reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Over the same period, Ireland has increased its greenhouse gas emissions by some 10%, while Northern Ireland has reduced emissions by 18%. Mr McGuigan seems to be a little confused. Northern Ireland has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions while Ireland has increased its emissions by 10%. By 2030, Ireland is proposing to reduce methane emissions by 10%. I am interested to hear what the UK is doing. Mr McGuigan had some green-tinted glasses on and could not see through them.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I thank the Minister for his contribution. It is important to have the facts; it is also important to have credible pathways and legislation that delivers more than fine words. I very clearly support clauses 1, 2 and 3 of the Bill. Those clauses set out the targets that have been deemed to be fair to Northern Ireland.

The UK Climate Change Committee is an independent expert panel with a wide range of experts who cover different fields. They are renowned scientists in their fields, and they have set those targets. The UK CCC has accepted that Northern Ireland is coming late to the game. The CCC has also examined our particular circumstances, topography and mix, and it identified that a fair target for Northern Ireland is an 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 so that we can play our part in the UK reaching net zero by 2050.

Have no doubt: an 82% reduction will be very challenging for all sectors, whether it be engineering, electricity or agriculture.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Certainly.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

As I listen to Mr Beggs, I am fascinated. Can he clear up my confusion? His party's climate change spokesperson has said that net zero carbon emissions can be achieved by 2035 — that came down from a previous target of 2045. In fact, the spokesperson highlighted the fact that the National Farmers' Union said that it could be achieved by 2045. The spokesperson stated:

"let's get to 2035 for net zero carbon".

Maybe the Member could explain the confusion or the difference between his agriculture and climate change perspective on that matter?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I suspect that a lot of Members are not picking up the details of the matter. One of the biggest greenhouse gas emissions is methane from animals in the agriculture sector. CO2 targets are not included in those figures. When you talk about CO2 figures, it is important to remember that. Yes, some energy is used by machinery and harvesting, but it does not take account of the methane that is produced by ruminants — sheep and cattle. I am very surprised that some Members have not appreciated that. The big issue about net zero for our agriculture sector is the methane produced by ruminants.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for giving way. Is he aware that we are now being told by climate scientists that methane is posing a more immediate and greater risk than carbon and that we need to go further and faster with methane reductions?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I fully accept the scientific evidence that methane is also a problem for climate change. However, I ask others to look carefully at what the Bill does and what it will do. If we set a net zero emissions target, we will export our methane production to South America, Australia and New Zealand.

A lot of muck has been thrown about, and people have mentioned Brexit and a lot of other things, including hill farming support subsidies. What happened in the past is in the past. We are here to make decisions that will affect our community, our farmers and our rural community today. If we go for a net zero target, we will decimate the rural community.

The Climate Change Committee indicated that a 50% reduction in the number of our cattle and sheep will not be sufficient and that it will have to be higher. It warned of the dangers of import substitution.

As I highlighted earlier, but just so that everyone is very clear, the average carbon emission intensity of milk production in Northern Ireland is measured at 1·279 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of energy-corrected milk. Figures from the United Nations and the Global Dairy Council show that the average global carbon emission intensity of milk production elsewhere is 2·5 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram. We have been given evidence that cutting our herds by half will not be sufficient, and the KPMG report indicated that the required reduction could be as high as 86%.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for taking an intervention. There are a couple of points there.

Does the Member accept that the UK CCC, while a very respectable and internationally renowned group of scientists, is an advisory body? Does he also accept that, during our investigation in the AERA Committee, we met a range of other climate change experts — for example, Dr Ciara Brennan of Newcastle University, Dr Thomas Muinzer of Aberdeen University, Dr Andrew Jackson of University College Dublin and Professor Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, and there may be others — who do not agree with that analysis?

Also, the Member is quoting scientists. The KPMG report ignores the seismic work that has been carried out by DAERA, AFBI and Teagasc. The other week, I received a report on the fantastic work on abatement by Teagasc scientists. That was not included in the KPMG report, which concluded that the only way to reduce emissions is by cutting herds. That ignores the work done by scientists in DAERA and Queen's University. Does the Member accept that there are other opinions out there from other scientists who are also experts?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I fully understand that there are different viewpoints, but I examine the evidence and apply a little bit of common sense to what I read and see. If we are to have net zero methane by 2050 — that is a target that some wish to insert into this legislation — it will mean a dramatic reduction in the number of cattle. Cattle and sheep produce methane. I hope —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Importantly, people talk about other scientists. The IPCC, a recognised international group, recommends a 40% reduction in methane by 2050. I do not know where Ms Bailey is getting her science from, but she disagrees with the CCC and the IPCC.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I thank the Minister. This is alarming me even more.

Earlier, we talked about public transport difficulties in rural communities. The KPMG report estimates that, to get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions, dairy cattle and sheep numbers will need to drop by 86%. That will have a very direct correlation with farm incomes. I suspect that farm incomes will drop by even more than that because there is a certain fixed cost in any enterprise. That is the type of change to farming income that will happen if that net zero target goes through.

I suspect that public transport in rural communities will become even more difficult, because fewer people will live and be able to earn a living in those communities. As such, it will be even more challenging to provide viable public-sector transport routes in those rural communities. We need to look at all the after-effects.

I see heads going down when I highlight to Members what the implications of net zero will mean, but worse than that —

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I have given way several times.

Worse than all that, I have continually highlighted that, by decimating our farming community and food production in Northern Ireland, we will increase global greenhouse gas emissions. The same food that is required in England or in other parts of Europe will be produced somewhere else with a higher level of greenhouse gas emissions, so the proposal is counter-intuitive. It will actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions. All Members should look very carefully at what they are doing. The figure is not aspirational; it is a figure that will be set in legislation, and, as such, Members ought to look very closely at what they are doing and be very sure about what will happen.

Some Members indicated that there will be new scientific discoveries. I hope that there are, but if there are not, KPMG and I have laid out what is likely to happen. I would much prefer that we set challenging but realistic targets, such as those that are indicated in the Minister's Bill, and that those targets are aimed for. When we see where we are and work out what has to happen to achieve those targets, if we find that, yes, we can achieve them and that, yes, other technological changes can be made, we can come back to the target and increase it further. We can be even more ambitious about what we are doing, but if we set it in legislation, we all know that it will be very difficult to tighten that legislation. It is very difficult to go back on what you have approved. I urge Members to reconsider the proposal to reach net zero by 2050.

Our emissions level is related to the fact that we provide food to other parts of the UK for some 10 million people. Those same people will still eat food, and they will eat food from other areas that emit higher levels of greenhouse gases. Lord Deben said that the 82% reduction would be:

"extremely hard ... particularly for the farming community".

It is very important that the farming community buys into the target. You have to set achievable targets. My big concern is that, in going for net zero, you will not get the farming community to buy into it. I do not see how any farmer or any livestock farmer can buy into net zero. There is a huge danger that the farming community will not buy into it, and a warning has been given to us about that.

Another reason why our figure has been set at 82% relates to the particular land mix that we have. We do not have absorbents in our peatlands but emissions from our peatlands. We have to spend time and money to address and to stop them. We also have a much lower tree covering, so our starting point has a much smaller net carbon sink. Our particular topography makes life more difficult for us. You can also look at our infrastructure, where you will see that we have a smaller gas network, and then there is the state of our housing stock. We still have the sizeable Northern Ireland Housing Executive housing stock of older, thermally inefficient houses and the fuel poverty that is associated with them. That needs to be addressed.

The Climate Change Committee indicated that we, as a location, are less likely to benefit from carbon storage. One amendment adds the issue of carbon storage, which I am supportive of, but do not save that up your sleeve as a solution that will solve everything. Carbon capture is expensive, and the technology is still not fully developed. There has been a clear message that, because we are a relatively small region, we are less likely to be chosen as a UK carbon capture storage area. We will not be able to rely on that to carry some of the load. Whatever we put into legislation will have a bearing out there. As legislators, we must take great care as we set binding legislation. This is not an aspiration.

The Committee report on the Bill indicates some of the cost implications of the Bill, as drafted. There is an annualised resource cost peaking at some £300 million by the early 2030s. It is right that we will have to do that. The report refers to a cost of 1% of GDP, and a net cost of some £4 billion between now and 2050. Those figures are based on the Minister's Bill. I would like to know what the cost of net zero would be. I fear that it would be much more. Where would the money come from to justify net zero? There may well be some UK transition funding but, if we voluntarily go at it faster and harder than is required of and suggested to us, I very much doubt that the Exchequer will say, "You decided to do that but that's OK. We'll give you some extra money." I suspect that we will suffer the related pain. Our industry and agri-food sector will suffer that pain. The huge potential reductions that are forecast may affect the whole viability of some of our industry, so we really should be looking at that.

In his evidence, Lord Deben stated that he is not prepared to suggest something that he knew could not be achieved. It is clear that he believes that net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 cannot be achieved in Northern Ireland given our background. The Committee report outlines Lord Deben's view that Northern Ireland could experience:

"a reputational risk by pursing a target that is unrealistic and that people may not engage with mitigation action as they know it is not achievable".

The Climate Change Committee will pull in behavioural scientists to guide all this change. It is not said lightly. We are trying to grasp something that is unachievable, and are liable not to take the community with us, making it even more difficult to achieve, and causing even greater destruction.

One of the greatest aspects of this matter is our agri-food sector, which we, in Northern Ireland, are heavily reliant on. It has provided stability during times of difficulty. However, look ahead to what will be the result of the Bill. Who will invest in our agri-food sector? Who will invest to bring about improvements? There will be a real danger when people see a potential 86% reduction in the number of sheep and cattle. You would be a very foolish farmer to invest in housing standards that are often better than other parts of the world. There are lots of knock-on effects.

I spoke about the Brazilian meat industry, which is actively pursuing a plan to increase cattle production by 10 million by 2030 — no doubt by cutting down its rainforests. We may well find that our customers, whom we will not be able to supply under the new targets, will be purchasing Brazilian meat in the future.

Furthermore, if we sacrifice our industry, or pay for carbon capture and take on a bigger share of the UK greenhouse gas emissions target, it will not result in any reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions. People may feel good, but the target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions will remain a 2050 target in the UK. We could voluntarily carry a heavier load and pay the extra cost, but that would not decrease UK greenhouse gas emissions. It would simply mean that Scotland, Wales and England did not have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to the same extent. Some people are under the impression that doing that would help global greenhouse gas emissions. It would not. The UK greenhouse gas emissions would remain at the same level, and, in fact, by offsetting our agriculture production elsewhere, we would be increasing global greenhouse gas emissions. That would be the net outcome of having a net zero target in the Bill. Members need to think carefully about what they are doing.

I asked the signatories to amendment Nos 2 and 3 to explain to the people of Northern Ireland why our agriculture economy would be binned. Our limited block grant would incur extra costs to try to compensate that part of the economy. From where in the block grant would the money come to compensate it? Would it come out of health or education funding? From where is this wonderful fund to come? I fear that there will not be much more money and that mitigation is easier said than provided.

There is another aspect to all of this. We need to stand back and think about what we are doing. It is easy to go for a popular headline, but to do so will produce the opposite effect. It will not deliver. It will not deliver what some people say is on the tin. Rather, as I have illustrated, it will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Change Committee said:

"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"

— to be clear, we are talking not about CO2 but about greenhouse gas emissions —

"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."

I fear that we are not doing that. I fear that we are creating difficulties for us, the UK and the planet.

The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050. If we move ahead of it, and we can volunteer to do so, we will have to pick up the cost and the pain.

What is the scale of the just transition funds? The KPMG report states that the agriculture sector has net profits or income of £400 million to £600 million a year. If we were to reduce animal numbers by between 50% and 86%, one does not need to be an expert to work out the effect that that would have on the income of those who previously were producers. We would devalue their income by hundreds of millions of pounds. So, I say, here and now, to the proposers of the amendments to the Bill, are you going to subsidise, to the value of hundreds of millions of pounds, those who may have invested in infrastructure that was built to last not for five or 10 years but for 50 or 60 years? That is the length of time that most in the agricultural sector expect to get out of their buildings. In my dad's small farm, we are still using some of the buildings that we found when we went to Carnduff in 1966. That is not unusual. What we are talking about here is decimating the income and making that investment in infrastructure redundant on many occasions. So, I plead with you to rethink what you are doing so that there really can be a just transition and that we go with a planned transition, as indicated by the UK Climate Change Committee and as set out by the Minister in the Bill. I support the targets and the figures in the Minister's Bill.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 6:00 pm, 1st February 2022

I am aware that several enquiries have been made to the Speaker's Office about the possibility of a comfort break. Therefore, I propose, with the leave of the House, to suspend the sitting until 6.30 pm. When we come back, the next person to speak will be Mr Jim Allister.

The debate stood suspended.

The sitting was suspended at 6.01 pm and resumed at 6.33 pm.

Debate resumed.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The debate on this group of amendments got off to a very good and interesting start, because the Green Party missed its target in respect of amendment No 1, and that, from my perspective, was very welcome. Tonight I am here to oppose, in word and deed, the anti-farming amendments of the Green Party, the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin. Having listened to Matthew O'Toole, I am not sure where I should put the SDLP in that regard, because he certainly espoused that farming-destructive measure of net zero, so we will wait and see what the SDLP does on that critical issue.

I want to begin by saying emphatically that farming is not the enemy of the environment.

Farmers, indeed, have more vested interest than anyone else in a sustainable future for our land and all that goes with it and have for centuries been the primary custodians of our land. It is the ambition of every farmer I know to pass on his land in better condition and facility than he inherited or obtained it. I want to refute clearly the commonly peddled mistruth that farmers are the enemy of the environment and the villains when it comes to climate change. Let us be clear: they are not the villains, but they will be the biggest victims of amendments such as those we have seen proposed today.

It is abundantly clear that the net zero brigade is inevitably and deliberately in the business of devastating our farming sector. It is doing that with full knowledge, because it has in the KPMG report, in flashing lights, the impact of net zero on our farming community. It could not be clearer. It is not as if people can say subsequently, "We did not know". There it is, writ large. It tells us that net zero demands will decimate our livestock industry, particularly cattle and sheep, and it calculates that there would have to be a staggering 86% reduction in livestock head of cattle and sheep. That is, of course, total devastation for most farming enterprises, particularly those of beef farmers, who are predominantly in what we have always called the "less-favoured areas". One striking statistic in the KPMG report is that even a 10% cut in livestock levels on a hill farm would make that farm non-viable. That is all that it would take — a 10% cut — to challenge and threaten the viability of those farms. It goes on to say that that means that 98% of farms in those less-favoured areas would be vulnerable. Think of what an 86% cut would mean. It would mean the greatest devastation in those areas since the famine. Yet that is what Sinn Féin comes to the House to advocate: net zero. That is what Alliance has attached its wagon to. That is what the Greens say to those rural communities — net zero — despite the reality of the devastation that that means.

I have to comment on those in the debate who have spoken out of both sides of their mouth, saying, "Yes, we want 100% reduction, but we are supporting the farmers". Sorry, you cannot do both. You simply cannot face in those diametrically opposed directions, and your voters know it. Many of them, I suspect, will remember it. I was at a meeting — I have been at many meetings about the issue — where, predominantly, those participating probably would have voted in the past for parties that, today, may be advocating net zero. Those people were clear that, for them, this was the defining issue and that, if their representatives voted as they had previously voted, they would have to take the message that will be delivered that, while it is only platitudes for them, it is destruction for them through their votes. I hope that that message gets through to the House.

Today, it was encouraging to see, outside the Building at the farmers' demonstration, that some parties were represented that, at the Second Stage of Ms Bailey's Bill, voted for 2045 and 100%. I hope that they were not just present today for the optics; I hope that they were present today because they have realised what persisting with the folly of 100% and 2045 would mean for our agriculture industry and thus for our entire economy. There is no more seminal component of the economy of Northern Ireland than our agri-food industry. It is the component on which so much is built. Without a vibrant, effective and flourishing agri-food industry, our economy is in deep trouble.

Rural communities, whose interests some claim to have at heart, are right on the front line of decimation under that proposal. Think about it: KPMG talks about 13,000 on-farm jobs before we even come to the spin-off processing industries. That is surely something that no MLA should have on their conscience when it comes to voting on these matters. Your job might be secure — some, maybe, less secure than others — but we are talking tonight about livelihoods. We are talking about the future of our rural community. It is not something to be played with in pursuit of ticking the politically correct boxes in this woke age. It is something to take seriously and make sure that we do not pursue the folly that the amendments advocate to us.

I heard Ms Bailey say that this was all scaremongering. A climate activist should be the last person to talk about scaremongering. How many false prophets have there been in the cult of climate change? I remember Al Gore telling us in this century, in 2009, that there was a 75% chance within five to seven years that the North Pole would be free of ice. I go back further to 1989, when a UN report told us that entire nations would be wiped out by rising sea levels by 2000. In 1982, the chief director of the UN environmental programme told us that, by 2000, devastation that was as complete and irreversible as any nuclear holocaust awaited us. We have had plenty of false prophets in the climate change brigade.

Go back 50 years to 'The Limits to Growth' report and the phenomenal threats that it made. Here we are again being told that we are in the last chance saloon.

I have a very simple question for the House. You pass net zero and do all the things that you want to do. Do you really think that it will change anything? Do you really think that it will stop climate change, which has happened through the years? Yes, of course we should do sensible, necessary, logical things to preserve our planet in the most pristine way we can, but do any of us really think that puny man, by going to net zero, will stop climate change?

Many of you will tick this box and vote for this woke proposal. You will do so with no assurance that it will do anything; you have only the assurance that it will devastate our agricultural industry. That is what many of you will opt to do tonight. It is time that you rose above the delusion that you, with your net zero, will make the phenomenal difference that you pretend it will. Just as the threats and the Armageddon suggestions of the last 50 years have proved to be untrue, this too, I fear, is another false prophecy.

I appeal to anyone in the House who cares about the future for their rural and farming constituents: the very least that you can do is vote against these anti-farming amendments.

It is not that the Minister's Bill is not without threats. To me, it goes too far, but it is by far more preferable to that which is on offer from the climate change alarmists in the House.

Now is a moment of truth for us all, and I will watch with interest to see who stands up for their rural constituents and who wants to put them down and off their land.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance 6:45 pm, 1st February 2022

It has to be said that, globally, Governments have dragged their feet when it comes to taking the required action to reduce carbon emissions and stem the flow of climate change. The Minister's Bill, whilst dealing with climate issues, does not go far enough to implement the measures required to prevent climate disaster.

It is worth remembering the two reasons why the Minister introduced a Bill, albeit limited. First, there has been a movement on our streets, including by striking schoolchildren in 2019 and in the run-up to COP26, to demand less "Blah, blah, blah" and more robust action from Governments. Secondly, the Minister did not want to have egg on his face. After he said that a climate Bill could not be drafted before the end of this mandate, another Member did so with cross-party support. Therefore, the Minister rushed to introduce this Bill, which has forced the climate issue to be discussed once again but does not go far enough to implement the necessary measures.

Throughout today's debate, the Minister has mentioned the need to defer to the science. Minister, I say to you directly: the science is crystal clear. Beyond net zero is not only achievable but necessary to prevent our communities from being flooded and people having to live in uninhabitable environments.

If we are honest, implementing net zero by 2045 is not enough in itself, but even that has provoked outrage from the Minister and his party. They have said that we must not go too far, too soon. The truth is that, contrary to what some anticipate, we do not have the time to wait around.

The IPCC report made it crystal clear that we are in code red. We needed action yesterday, but, unfortunately, some are still willing to drag their feet.

The Member who spoke previously and others referred to farmers being impacted by some of the amendments in this particular group. There has even been a suggestion that we could see farmers put out of business altogether as a result of the amendments' being passed. In truth, there is division amongst farmers and those who work in agri-food. On the one hand, workers, farmers and those who work in the food industry see the need for urgent climate action not only to protect the environment but to have any chance of having a job for the next number of years. On the other hand, we see large corporations in the agri-food sector that want the most meagre action from government because, in short, action impacts and cuts into profits. There is no singular and universal farming experience. All farmers are not in it together. There is a class divide in farming, just as much as there is across our society. Poor and struggling farmers are the majority, and they are alongside a handful of farmers who are doing financially well.

I find it rich — it is laughable, even — to hear the DUP talk about standing up for farmers. When it designed its RHI schemes, it did not have small farmers in mind but big farmers and big landowners, who milked the system and did very well financially from it. The DUP was happy to turn a blind eye to that. The truth is that whilst everybody, in theory, is impacted by climate change, some are impacted more directly than others. The rich will be able to afford their own flood defences, private jets and other short-term measures to keep the rising seas at bay temporarily, but, ultimately, even they will be impacted.

Amendment Nos 7 and 8 will make a higher level of reductions in a much quicker time frame and should be supported for that. There should be targets for the reduction of carbon, and even the targets in amendment Nos 7 and 8 are not urgent or quick enough. However, the problem with the Minister's targets is that they set the bar incredibly low and park emission reduction to some time in the distant future. You cannot offset your way out of a climate emergency. Amendment No 16 is important for those reasons.

Whilst the Bill is far from perfect, some amendments, if passed tonight, could make it better. However, possible actions that are not proposed in the Bill are also not in any of the amendments. There is no moratorium on petroleum or fossil fuel licences despite me and others trying to get an amendment on those matters on the Marshalled List. The Executive have spoken out of both sides of their mouth. Whilst, on the one hand, passing motions to declare climate emergencies and sponsoring Bills like this, on the other hand, they support to the tune of millions the extractive industry and waive the £400,000 policing fee for Dalradian. The doublespeak and contradictory action need to stop. Petroleum licences and fossil fuel licences need to be opposed and scrapped. Dalradian needs to be kicked out from the Sperrins. The Mullaghglass landfill site that is causing so much unease, discomfort and nuisance to residents in west Belfast and Lisburn needs to be closed down. Those issues are not detailed in the Bill, so in order to take action on them and to prevent them, we will need to see the continued people power exercised in the communities that push back against polluters and those whose primary motivation is to maximise profit at all costs, regardless of the impact on the environment.

Finally, with regard to targets, we cannot forget that, globally, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all emissions. If there is to be any sense of climate justice and a just transition not only do we need strong targets and strong legislation but we need to dismantle capitalism — the very economic and political system that brought huge emissions and the addiction to fossil fuels in the first place.

Photo of Claire Sugden Claire Sugden Independent

I do not intend to speak for too long. I just want to provide my rationale for what I intend to do in the Divisions this evening.

The Climate Change Bill has served a significant purpose because it prompted the Minister to do his job on climate change. I have no doubt that, without the work of Ms Bailey, the various co-sponsors of that Bill and the strong network of activists, we would not have this opportunity today to respond to an Executive Bill on climate change, which is actually a really good thing.

Northern Ireland is a small region of the United Kingdom, of these islands, of Europe and of the world, so our practical impact on climate change will be limited. It is leadership, however, that can have a greater impact, and Ms Bailey has demonstrated that. She, as a Back-Bench MLA, has compelled a Government to do something that they were unlikely to do. She has unified most parties of the House in recognising the need for action now. I have listened to criticisms of Ms Bailey today that are unfair. We should see her work in the wider context of getting climate change legislation into the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It was my pleasure to sign up as a co-sponsor of the Climate Change Bill. I did so with no preconditions that the Bill could not change, develop or take recognition of our context. An important feature of any legislative process is that it should allow various views to be heard and considered, with the aim of shaping the Bill so that we end up with the right law.

The targets in the first Bill, which have since found themselves as amendments to this Bill, are ambitious and rightly so. We are in a climate emergency. We should overstretch ourselves in that ambition to, at minimum, stop the decline of our environment and, preferably, reverse it to give generations after us a safe and healthy future. I am unsure, however, that we have capacity in Northern Ireland to meet those targets without significant damage and/or unintended consequences. The lack of capacity that I talk about is actually a criticism of government. We do not have joined-up government. Departments do not work together; they work in silos. They pass the buck; they say, "That is your remit, not ours". They do not think creatively or work consistently towards innovative solutions that could surpass the targets that Ms Bailey would have us vote for today. Therefore, while I support the ambition and the targets in principle, I really lack confidence about their application.

Sadly, given the current figures for agri-food emissions, I suspect that that sector will be the low-hanging fruit for that objective. The current debate, which is on a Bill and amendments that, I remind Members, do not specify a sector, is focusing on the agri-food sector. That leads me to believe that the Department and other Departments will focus their application and targets on the agri-food sector. I have no confidence that the Bill's application will be anything other than a cut of the herd, as we have heard from the agri-food sector. I have asked the Minister a series of questions over the past number of months, seeking or suggesting various interpretations of data to ensure that agri-food is not disproportionately and negatively affected and is recognised for the work that it does on countryside management and in other ways. I am sure that the Minister knows more about that than I do. I do not think that the sector is being listened to or that the information is understood. Perhaps it cannot be understood at this point, but that gives me cause for concern about the application of the Bill and its targets. It concerns me, primarily, as a representative of rural communities and as a member of the Economy Committee. Small and medium-sized enterprises — farms — underpin agriculture and the Northern Ireland economy. It worries me that many people, not just the Ulster Farmers' Union but others, including processors, people across the supply chain and those who get their jobs from that supply chain, have contacted me in recent days, weeks and months to say that they are deeply concerned about the Bill. It is my job — our job — to listen to those concerns.

When we talk of targets, it is almost as though we need to just meet them. We can surpass the targets despite what is set in legislation. To an extent, it gives me comfort to think that, if we are working towards a 50% target, we can go past it and review it. The target is a long time away. That does not mean that we should not set an ambition, but perhaps we need to look at it in the context and reality of how we apply it.

Either climate change Bill will be better for Northern Ireland, because, right now, we have nothing. Either one will be a positive step in how we move forward in our global effort to affect climate change, so I want to see at least one Bill passed in this mandate. I would like to see a more ambitious Bill and to think that the Government could support it. Sadly, my experience of nearly eight years as an MLA tells me that they cannot. Perhaps we should devise better government in the next mandate, and then we would be able to put more ambitious targets in place.

I will pose a question to the Minister. There are targets here that he disagrees with and is likely to vote against. If that is the case, and those targets are passed, is the Minister unlikely to move subsequent stages of the Bill? If that is the case, will we end up by the dissolution date with no climate change legislation in place? That is an important consideration, because we need to act now, not after the election or next year, when we can develop more legislation. We need to act now.

To bring my comments full circle, this did not start with Clare Bailey. It started with people outside this Building telling us that we needed to take action on climate change. I know that we often have to view that action in the form of tactile outcomes and targets, but really it is about influence and pressure, and I think that we have achieved that. Although there is a lot of negativity around the Chamber, the most important thing is that we get climate change legislation enacted in this mandate.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 7:00 pm, 1st February 2022

No other Members have indicated that they wish to speak in the debate, so I call the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Edwin Poots.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Chair and members of the AERA Committee for their scrutiny of the Bill. They raised helpful questions and proposed a number of areas for amendment. I was happy to consider those proposals and, ultimately, to table amendments for debate today, some of which are in the group of amendments that we are currently debating. I will touch on my amendments shortly. As we have heard, a number of other Members tabled amendments to the clauses on targets and carbon budgets. It is right and proper that we focus on those aspects in detail.

The facts do not bear out what Ms Dillon and Mr Carroll claim, despite what they say. We were working on this Bill — consultations were going on — when the other Bill was produced. Government has to go through due process when bringing forward legislation. It cannot just magic up a Bill and say, "This is good for you". It has to engage with the community and do consultation processes. All those things were carried out rightly and properly by my Department and were being carried out when the rushed legislation came through from Ms Bailey, backed by a number of other Members.

Clause 1 of the Bill sets out the emissions reduction target for 2050. As such, it is the key clause in the Bill. The remaining clauses essentially identify how we will measure our emissions, how we will take action and how we will monitor progress and ensure that we are on track to meet the target in clause 1 by meeting interim targets and carbon budgets. I am somewhat struck by how those who proposed it insist that we push ahead with their target of 100% by 2050. In spite of specific requests for those Members to demonstrate the scientific basis for their proposal, not one of them has come forward with serious scientific evidence to demonstrate that it is achievable. I offer them that opportunity again: if they have that scientific evidence, I am happy to give way and hear what they have to say.

There are 278 million milking cows in the world. If all the cows in the world were as efficient as the cows in Northern Ireland, the world would need only 76 million cows, and that would reduce the levels of methane from cows by 75%. The proposal of a 100% target means that we would export milking to somewhere else in the world, where it would be done less efficiently, producing more carbon. Instead of GB importing its milk and cheese from Northern Ireland, along with all the other excellent products that we have, it could then import them from South America, thus producing even more carbon, yet those who proposed the target will say, "Heigh-ho, didn't we do well? We put through a Bill that said that we will not do anything less than 100% net zero". That is in spite of the fact that they would be causing more carbon emissions throughout the world.

Others say that we should not be drinking milk at all or that we should forget about cow milk and go for alternatives. Why not go for almond milk as an alternative?

It takes the equivalent of 8 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of milk from a cow. That is very nutritious milk; it is full of things that are good for people. It takes 158 litres of water to bring imported milk from California to us to drink. The experts in all of those things do not appear to have much knowledge of the real facts. We produce nutritious, healthy food in an environmentally responsible way.

Unfortunately, Ms Bailey has been a big part of setting up the environment versus farming. That is not right. People in the farming community are the custodians of the land. They consider the environment to be of the utmost importance. We now have a division between the environment and farming, and farming is perceived as being bad. Farming is on the cusp of a revolution, environmentally. So many farmers are looking at opportunities to capture more methane and turn it into gas to heat our homes and to run our lorries and tractors. The reality is that farmers will produce carbon. When a farmer ploughs a field, he or she releases carbon. When you cultivate land, it releases carbon, because the carbon is captured in the land in the first instance. However, Northern Ireland is very much a grass-based land base. Well over half of Northern Ireland is not suitable for ploughing. Grass is one of the best sequesters of carbon. When grass has been there for 30, 40 or 50 years, it is already storing lots of carbon and is still drawing it in. Going for some plant-based thing that will be imported from somewhere else in the world, using lots of water, will not seriously tackle climate change.

Sinn Féin has put up a few folks today from rural backgrounds to say how much they are concerned about farming. They are talking out of both sides of their mouth. They will support amendments that will be hugely destructive to farming. I had a conversation with my family about this. It is a bit like the Native American belief: the land does not really belong to us; we belong to the land. My parents worked darned hard to get it, with blood, sweat and tears. It has been lent to me by them, and I will lend it to the next generation. I am appalled that people would produce legislation and support such amendments, particularly those who live in the country —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I will — particularly people who live in the country, who should know better. They should know the impact and the harm that they are doing to individuals for whom farming is a way of life. It is precious to them. It is not about making tens of thousands of pounds; they will never make that. It is about their family heritage. You are taking that away from them.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for giving way. I wonder how he responds to the fact that, in the North, agriculture is responsible for 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions. In the South, it is over 30%, yet they have a target of net zero by 2050 and have just produced their plan, which does not call for anything like what the Minister is outlining would have to happen here. In fact, the Agriculture Minister in the South has expressly said that there will be no cuts to the herd in the South.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for raising the point. The Irish Farmers' Association —.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am not talking about the Irish Farmers' Association; I am talking about the Minister.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I know what the Minister is proposing. Being detached from your constituents is not something that belongs just to a North Antrim MLA.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Certainly the constituents that it will impact. The constituents —.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Excuse me, Minister. Will you resume your seat? It is not heckling, but it is not particularly pleasant. The Minister should be allowed to speak. We have had a fulsome debate, and people have been giving way all over the place. If Members want to make interventions, they should ask the Minister to give way and not chunter at him from a sedentary position.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Thank you, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. Personally, I do not mind — they can heckle away there — but, if you do, that is your call.

The IFA, which speaks on behalf of farmers and voters, says that:

"A lower reduction target will also ensure that Ireland can maintain and possibly increase food production"

— it does not want that higher target —

"improving the emissions footprint and protecting the economic sustainability of the sector while meeting the food security and climate change challenge."

According to the United Nations, the world population is projected to grow from 7·7 billion in 2017 to 8·5 billion in 2030 and 9·7 billion in 2050. That is a 26% increase. That growth will drive global food demand, which is expected to increase anywhere between 59% and 98% by 2050. It is projected that 58% more milk and 73% more meat will be required by 2050, compared with 2010 consumption. In light of the increasing demand for food due to that projected population growth, any contraction of food production in Ireland, and indeed in Northern Ireland, to meet the emissions ceiling may simply be replaced by production elsewhere, potentially in countries with a higher emissions footprint, resulting in carbon leakage and higher overall global emissions.

In case you did not know what farmers in Northern Ireland were thinking, or what farmers in the Republic of Ireland are thinking as well, I am glad to have facilitated you. It aligns. This is not political: it is about people's livelihoods.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I will give way. This is about people's livelihoods and your willingness to play fast and loose with those livelihoods.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

A while ago, you talked about carbon leakage and the potential of whatever type of legislation emerges to impact on that. Last week, the heads of the LMC and UFU were present at a meeting of the Westminster NI Affairs Committee on the Australia and New Zealand trade deals. They said that they wanted the gates open, and they got that. The head of the LMC said that the Australia and New Zealand trade deals have the potential to displace our position on the British market, which is our main market. Last year, the island of Ireland exported 105,000 tons of beef to the British market. The deal with Australia is for 110,000 tons of beef. That is a consequence of the hard Brexit into which your party forced the Tory Government. As well as displacing our share of our main market, you are on about income. Hill farmers survive on subsidies. Eighty-six per cent of their income is the single farm payment, which you have threatened as a consequence of forcing us out of the EU. Earlier, I said that climate and the DUP are the biggest threats to hill farmers, and I say it again.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I think that they will find that the biggest threat to hill farmers is Sinn Fein's support for the climate change legislation. You do not have to convince anybody in the House about that, Mr McAleer. Why do you not go down to the farmers who were on the steps and convince them? I have not had to convince them. They have been lobbying us and you. They have invited every Member of the House to come out and talk to them. A few have taken it up, but it is quite remarkable how many Members have shown utter contempt for the farming community, which represents 10% of our gross domestic product and employs over 100,000 people in the economy. It has been shown contempt by many MLAs. You should hang your heads in shame.

I had better get on with my written speech, because I am still on the first page, and there are 45 of them. If we keep going at this speed, I do not know when we will get there. We have said and started a few things anyway.

[Laughter.]

Clause 1 sets the evidence-based target of at least an 82% net reduction in all greenhouse gases from the baseline position by 2050. That is the target that has been recommended by the UK's statutory independent and world-renowned advisory body, the Climate Change Committee. It has been clear in highlighting that the target represents a fair and equitable contribution by Northern Ireland towards the UK net zero target.

It is also consistent with the aims of the Paris agreement and — listen up, folks — the recommendations of the IPCC in the recent report often quoted by Members as being code red for humanity. In other words, the target will deliver on the climate ambition at a UK and global level, which was recommended by the Climate Change Committee and the IPCC. Where are all the experts coming from on the other side of the House? Where is the science coming from?

Some Members here today have suggested that the target recommended by the Climate Change Committee, reflected in clause 1 of the Bill, is not ambitious enough and leaves Northern Ireland behind other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I want to reassure Members that that is simply not true. Achieving an at least 82% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 will be hugely challenging and will require substantial change across all sectors, but it will also allow us to deliver a just transition.

The Climate Change Committee has indicated that reaching net zero requires strong efforts in all parts of the UK. At least 82% of all greenhouse gases in Northern Ireland represents equivalently stretching emissions reductions efforts to the targets legislated for in Scotland, Wales and England, once the differences in starting points and opportunities available to each region are considered. The Climate Change Committee advised that it considered each country's respective capabilities and the circumstances and opportunities in Northern Ireland, as well as what is deliverable through policies and actions in Northern Ireland.

The Climate Change Committee has advised that further reductions beyond the balanced pathway are technically possible but unlikely to be achieved. So, why try to fool the public out there that we are going to do this 100% thing and get a headline if we do not believe that it is achievable?

It is worth dwelling on the phrase "technically possible", as some Members have used it throughout the wider debate on Northern Ireland targets. Lots of things are technically possible, but the practicalities of them are very different. If we had an infinite budget and if we had no concern for the livelihoods of people who live and work here, it is technically possible to make reductions beyond the balanced pathway. However, when you consider the actual circumstances that we are faced with, "technically possible" becomes "practically and financially impossible".

The Climate Change Committee further highlighted a number of risks of going for a higher target, including the potential for carbon leakage and huge costs associated with a massive reduction in our livestock sector or much greater reliance on the use of engineered greenhouse gas removal technologies than is appropriate, or, potentially, the costly combination of both. I want to be clear that the costs associated with both those potential impacts will be huge.

When we have sought money for green growth, which will be the engine for tackling all those issues and producing a much better environment in Northern Ireland, it has been amazing how the Sinn Féin Finance Minister has been very slow at coming forward to release the purse strings. The response to the requests that have gone in is minimalist in tackling environmental issues. So, we have more doublespeak. Farmers can bear the brunt of the pain of this, and we will not even release the finances from the public purse to help people to achieve what we are telling them that they have to do.

Although amendment No 1 has not been moved, I want to highlight that KPMG recently published a report on the economic impact of the alternative target proposed by some Members of this Assembly to be net zero by 2045. It concluded that the impact could be beef, dairy and sheep herd numbers falling by 86% and pig and poultry herd numbers falling by 11%, representing a 54% decrease in farm employment alone, with around 13,000 jobs lost in that primary agricultural sector, not to mention the tens of thousands of jobs lost in the processing sector. I want to be clear that simply shifting the net zero target to 2050 for Northern Ireland, as some have proposed through amendments, will have similarly devastating impacts. It is just delaying them for a few years.

Our agri-food sector is the largest manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland. It is ranked second when it comes to exports outside the UK. In other words, it is a very significant part of the economy. In addition to that, the agri-food sector is critical to rural areas and balanced regional development. Some 86% of agri-food processors are based outside the Belfast City Council area, and almost 26,000 farm businesses operate in rural settings. We must support and protect such an important sector for our economy and the communities concerned.

If the Assembly decides to vote for a higher target than is set out in clause 1 and chooses to rely heavily on engineered greenhouse gas removal technologies instead of or in combination with cuts to our livestock sector, the costs will be colossal, with no end point. Who is paying for that? What Departments will hand money back? Is it the Department of Health? It is the wealthiest Department and receives the most money. The Department of Health has a lot of needs, and it cannot afford to hand money back. Is it the Department of Education, the Department for Infrastructure or the Department of Justice? What Department will hand back money? Members are making a decision that will impose spending requirements.

The Climate Change Committee has indicated that aiming for net zero by 2050 and relying on engineered greenhouse gas removal technologies could cost up to £900 million per annum by 2050, a cost that will continue to be incurred every year after 2050 until we are somehow able to remove those residual emissions through other means. At present, the other means identified are limited to greatly reducing our livestock sector, which I cannot and will not support. The additional cost until 2050 will be several billion pounds more than the costs of aiming for the targets in clause 1. The costs could be anything from £10 billion to £25 billion extra depending on when and how quickly we start to deploy that technology. Let me be very clear: that is only the cost until 2050. The cost of those technologies will persist at a similar level for many years after 2050.

Furthermore, the Climate Change Committee has confirmed with my officials that no part of the UK can reach net zero without engineered greenhouse gas removals. However, not every part of the UK can physically house greenhouse gas removal facilities and geological CO2 storage. Northern Ireland is very poorly geographically positioned to physically enable deployment of such facilities due to limited access to space that can be used for CO2 storage, unlike Scotland, which is extremely well positioned. There is the science of, "Scotland can do it, so we can do it". I will leave that with you.

The Climate Change Committee has confirmed that, if greenhouse gas removal deployment capabilities are removed from its revised emissions reduction targets for each region of the UK under its balanced pathway, and the differences in land use and agricultural production are taken into account, the real emissions, reductions, aims and ambitions are similar in each sector in Northern Ireland with what is required in all other regions of the UK to meet UK net zero. Under the "at least 82% reduction" will not in any way lag behind other parts of the UK. Shame on those people who call that community "laggards". Shame on you. We are delivering effective policies and emission reductions across our key sectors. Therefore, the narrative put forward that we are climate laggards is false.

The Climate Change Committee has also indicated that setting a net zero target for Northern Ireland might not lead to additional overall reductions in UK greenhouse gas emissions but rather act to shift a greater share of the UK-wide cost of reaching net zero to Northern Ireland. Again, I ask: where will the funding for that come from? Are our finances in such a good state that we can effectively subsume a greater share of the costs for UK net zero than has been recommended or is, indeed, needed? The Finance Minister has confirmed that it will be for the Executive to agree and fund the climate change programme from their overall Budget, even if that programme costs more than any equivalent Barnett consequential.

It is further indicated that, should funding be provided by the British Government that is conditional on its use for climate change, any additional costs will have to be borne by the overall Executive Budget.

Do we really want to ask the people of Northern Ireland to do more than their fair share for no overall benefit, given that we will still reach 100% net zero? Moreover, I have to ask this yet again: if we do, how can we fund it?

I have consistently highlighted to Members that the right thing to do is to follow the independent evidence and science. We should set an ambitious target and take effective and sustained action to meet and, hopefully, go beyond that target. If the evidence supports it, we can update and increase the target at a future point, as the UK, Scotland and Wales did in their approach to climate change legislation. That is the proper way to deliver effective legislation on this crucial, long-term issue.

That view is rightly shared by the Finance Minister — in his writings anyway. He was clear when he corresponded with me and, indeed, Executive colleagues that legislation should be ambitious and deliverable, so that we achieve the best possible outcomes, and that it needs to be evidence-based. I have not heard the evidence for the 100%. I have offered Members the opportunity to provide it to me, but they have not done that. He also stated that it should be underpinned by financial modelling. Nobody has suggested how they will meet the bills that I have brought before the House and warned it about.

According to the evidence and the science, the target in clause 1 is the only evidence-based, long-term target that Northern Ireland can soundly commit to and realistically deliver on at this time. In recommending the target, the Climate Change Committee took into account all of the key factors relevant to the Northern Ireland environment and economy, as well as global and UK drivers for addressing climate change. Nobody else has carried out that type of analysis or delivered any alternative evidence, so why would we move away from the evidence base?

I turn to the amendments that I propose to clause 1. In recommending a target of at least an 82% net reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, the Climate Change Committee indicated that Northern Ireland would need to reach net zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050. We have a net zero target in the Bill, and it is achievable. Achieving that reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is consistent with the advice and evidence from the IPCC. While it is important that we reduce all our greenhouse gases, the IPCC has been clear that, in particular, we need to address emissions from long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Those gases accumulate in the atmosphere, meaning that continued emissions of them will lead to continually increasing warming. Reducing that warming requires the active removal of long-lived greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The AERA Committee recommended an amendment to clause 1 to include a separate net zero target for carbon dioxide. I support that recommendation, as it aligns with the advice from the Climate Change Committee. Therefore, I tabled an amendment to clause 1 to add a supplementary 2050 net zero target for carbon dioxide. The addition of that target requires additional consequential amendments to ensure that the Bill remains operational. The consequential amendments are amendment Nos 12, 13, 14, 17, 31, 55 to 59, 64 to 66 and 75. They ensure that the Bill sets out the baseline for the carbon dioxide target; identify how we will determine whether the carbon dioxide target is being met; specify how any purchased carbon units will be apportioned towards the carbon dioxide target; and update any relevant reporting requirements, so that progress against the target for carbon dioxide is also captured.

The addition of a supplementary 2050 net zero carbon dioxide target is also consistent with the Department for the Economy's new energy strategy, which aims to achieve net zero emissions from energy by 2050. The Economy Minister has confirmed his support for the targets in my Bill, highlighting the risks of aiming for an early target that could lead to Northern Ireland having to deploy energy technologies before they are commercially mature and, thus, at a much higher cost than would be otherwise needed, potentially increasing fuel poverty. That is critical. Today, we have received notification of a 33% rise in gas costs, and we know how people are suffering with the cost of fuel this year because of particular circumstances. Whilst we will move to renewable technologies — I am totally committed to doing that — we need to do so in a way that enables us to produce consistent and affordable renewable electricity and energy. That is at risk, and I am not prepared to take that risk. Our hard-working families are already feeling the squeeze. Why would any of us want to put those on the lowest incomes in a worse position?

Turning to the amendments that other Members tabled on targets, carbon budgets and nitrogen balance sheets, as you heard, Ms Bailey's amendment No 1 was not moved. As a result, amendment Nos 7 and 8 will not be moved. I am glad that we will not be asked to support those three unevidenced targets. However, I note that, instead, Ms Bailey, along with some other Members, will now support a 2050 net zero target. I am disappointed that those Members are unable to see reason and to understand and accept the evidence that has been provided to them. That evidence makes it clear that aiming for such targets at this stage would be completely unrealistic, hugely costly and likely to disengage some of the people who can help to deliver positive outcomes.

I have already outlined the advice from the Climate Change Committee about the potential costs of reaching the net zero target by 2050 and the increased likelihood of carbon leakage that is associated with such a target. The difference between the evidence-based target and a net zero target is less than three quarters of 1% of global emissions. On a global level, that is around 0·0075% of emissions — 0·0075% — yet you will drive 13,000 farmers off their family farms. What does that say? If we shut down our efficient agri-food sector and shift food production to somewhere else in the world that has more carbon-intensive farming, we will be adding to global emissions and doing the exact opposite of what people are setting out to do and what we are collectively trying to achieve.

People have tried again today to convince us that the target that I propose is purely an economic decision and that an alternative net zero target is based on the best available science, but nobody produced that science or, indeed, any proper evidence to support such a target. I have heard Ms Bailey saying things like, "Scotland and Germany are aiming for a 2045 net zero target". When I went to school, that was not science; that was geography.

In contrast, the Climate Change Committee and the other scientists who carried out the analysis, who have expertise on those issues and who considered all the relevant facts, confirmed that the target that is in clause 1 of my Bill aligns with the Paris agreement and is entirely compatible with the agreements on the global pathway ambition to limit warming to below 1·5°C and with the advice from the IPCC. They have strongly cautioned against pursuing a net zero target partly because conditions in Northern Ireland are suboptimal for greenhouse gas removal technology, which means that we would have to rely on deeper and more extensive reductions in other areas such as agri-food in order to try to meet that target. There are a number of factors, including economic reasons, in why a net zero target should not be pursued.

Mr Blair, Mr McGuigan and Mr McAleer, who are supported by other Members and their parties, also proposed amendments that seek to change the target in clause 1 to a target of reaching net zero by 2050. Mr McGuigan and Mr McAleer also tabled an amendment that would require my Department to set new interim targets for 2030 and 2040. As co-sponsors of the other climate change Bill that is passing through the Assembly, I am pleased that they have seen some sense when it comes to moving away from the 2045 net zero target that they originally supported, but, unfortunately, they still need to move a bit further towards the evidence, advice and science.

I do not believe that their amendment, which requires my Department to set targets for 2030 and 2040 that are in line with the 2050 target, is necessary. The Climate Change Committee has already provided advice — it is science-based advice, of course — on what the targets for 2030 and 2040 should be. It also advised that the only way that we could go beyond its recommended targets is to either make huge cuts to our livestock sector or to invest massively in engineered greenhouse gas removal technology, even though the geographical conditions are not optimal for its deployment in Northern Ireland. During the AERA Committee's deliberations on my Bill, the two Members who tabled that amendment indicated that we should not look to take forward either approach at an early point. I fail to see what has changed for them. Why did they say that in the AERA Committee and then propose this today? It is more doublespeak, I suggest.

Mr Blair and some of his Alliance colleagues have also tabled an amendment to meet net zero carbon dioxide by 2045. Again, that is not backed by or based on any evidence, and, therefore, I cannot support it. The amendment is inconsistent with the Executive's recently published energy strategy. As I highlighted earlier, aiming for such a target could lead to us having to deploy energy technologies before they are commercially mature and thus at a much higher cost than is otherwise needed, which will exacerbate fuel poverty. Let us have a go at the farmers and, in particular, hill farmers, and then we will go for the people who are experiencing fuel poverty; that is what those Members are doing.

Some Members who tabled amendments to clause 1 have indicated that there has been widespread support for a net zero target, but there has not been. In the only official consultation, which was carried out by my Department through a proper process, the preferred option of respondents was an evidence-based target. In the AERA Committee's call for views on the two climate change Bills, one resulted in no majority position in favour of any target while the other resulted in a small majority in favour of a net zero target. There is no consensus among stakeholders, and it is plainly wrong to suggest otherwise. Indeed, during the AERA Committee's voting on clause 1, there was majority support for the evidence-based targets in this Bill, unlike with the net zero by 2045 target in the private Member's Bill, on which there was a split vote, with only one Committee member other than the three Bill co-sponsors voting in favour of the net zero target. As politicians, it is our job to make the right decisions based on the best evidence available, and that is what I have done.

Dr Archibald suggested that the IPCC is against our Bill. The IPCC has confirmed that our Bill is consistent with the Paris agreement. Members should not be misled on the issues. I have to be very clear about the facts, and I have to deal with facts and nothing else. For the reasons that I have outlined today, I cannot and will not support any of the amendments that have been tabled by other Members to clause 1 of my Bill or to the interim targets in clauses 2 and 3.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes, I will.

I urge all Members to reject those amendments and instead support the amendment that I have tabled to clause 1 and support the evidence-based target that will deliver on the UK net zero ambition, which will lead to real global emissions reductions and deliver a sustainable Northern Ireland economy whilst protecting and enhancing our environment. I will give way to Mr Muir.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

I thank the Minister for giving way and for his lengthy penultimate winding-up speech, if I can describe it as that. It has been a useful debate on the group 1 amendments. We have three more groups to come, probably later tonight and tomorrow. We may not agree on some of the points, but there has been a debate on the amendments in group 1. Obviously, the House will vote on the amendments once Clare Bailey makes a winding-up speech. Can the Minister confirm that he will respect the democratic will of the House in the voting on the amendments and the clauses and will not impede the passage of the Bill at Further Consideration Stage and Final Stage?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

With every piece of legislation, Further Consideration Stage allows for further amendments to be put to the House, and it is for the House to accept or reject those amendments. I reserve the right to table amendments should things not go with the evidence-based scientific legislative proposals tonight.

I will turn to clause 4. An important element of any legislation that sets targets for several decades away is to ensure that there is flexibility to update those targets as circumstances change. Clause 4 provides the power to amend the targets in clauses 1 to 3 as the scientific evidence changes in future years. Use of the power is subject to a number of restrictions, which are set out in clause 31. In summary, clause 4 allows for the targets to be modified should updated advice from the UK Climate Change Committee recommend that, or if the Executive consider that it is appropriate to do so as a result of significant developments in scientific knowledge, technology —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes.

— UK or international law or policy relating to climate change. Should such developments take place, we will be in a position to make the targets more ambitious in the future. I am hopeful that that will be the case.

Photo of Steve Aiken Steve Aiken UUP

I thank the Minister for giving way. As we know, climate change targets are likely to increase. If the CCC, or the IPCC, makes recommendations for tightening the requirements, will the Minister be looking to those? Will respecting the CCC's judgement be the driving factor?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Absolutely. We are in a position from which we cannot backslide, but we can go higher. Should the science suggest that we go higher, that is what we will do. That is the sensible and rational way forward, rather than hurting some of the lowest earners in our society.

Regulations made to amend emissions targets must also be laid before the Assembly in draft form, so Members will be responsible for the approval of such regulations, and Executive agreement for making any changes will be required. The targets could therefore not merely be amended by my Department. My Department would simply be responsible for making any relevant legislation to reflect such decisions by the Assembly and the Executive, as a duty for making regulations has to be placed on a Department. During the Second Stage debate on the Bill, Members raised concerns that that power could be used to set less-ambitious targets. I made it clear that the power was intended only to increase the ambition of targets, not decrease them. That matter was further discussed during Committee Stage. Although, on the basis of current and predicted trends and evidence, the power could be used only to increase a target, I am more than happy to bring forward an amendment that would restrict the use of the power in order to ensure that the targets could be updated only to bring them forward to an earlier point or to set a higher percentage reduction. That amendment to the Bill would make it clear that the intended use of the power was to amend the targets in the Bill to make them more ambitious.

Ms Bailey and Miss Woods tabled a virtually identical amendment to clause 4, with the only difference being the addition of "only" in two places. As we have heard, however, they will seek to withdraw that amendment. Thankfully, they have realised that the addition of "only" is not necessary and does not change the effect of my amendment. We should not be seeking to add superfluous words to legislation. I therefore urge Members to support my amendment No 9 to clause 4, as it will prevent future targets being set that are less ambitious than the current or future updated targets.

I turn now to clause 7. Mr McGuigan, Mr McAleer and Dr Archibald tabled amendment No 15, which seeks to add:

"carbon capture use and storage technology" to the categories under reasons for Northern Ireland removals of a gas. Clause 7 provides the power to amend the definition of "Northern Ireland removals of a gas", so we have the capacity to add further categories as and when we come to use them. We do not currently use such technology, but, nonetheless, I am content to accept the amendment.

I highlight once again, however, the costs associated with such technology. It would cost hundreds of millions of pounds per annum, and the geographical conditions in Northern Ireland for its deployment and use are suboptimal. I know from engaging with the Department of Finance around the green sign that it thinks that we may have to rely on that approach in order to meet our emission targets and budgets for a period. Although it is right and proper that we provide ourselves with flexibility, it was my expectation that, if we had set the right target in the first place, we would not need to rely on purchasing carbon credits at all, as we could deliver the reductions through our own actions. Instead, the Members seem to think that their 100% target is so unrealistic that a shocking 25% of the emission reductions would have to be met through the purchasing of carbon credits. Let us understand that. I am hoping to get to at least 82% without purchasing any carbon credits, yet Members are proposing that we set a 100% target and allow ourselves the space to purchase up to 25%. It is back to school for some Members. When I was at school, when you took 25 from 100, you were left with 75. We are involved in some sort of a con job. We are telling people that we are reaching 100%, and then we are going across the world to buy in 25% of it, or up to 25%. I am proposing that we do 82%, and more if the science is available to demonstrate to us that we can.

Based on the level of carbon credits that the Members propose we could use, they are acknowledging that their favoured targets are unattainable and that they think that even the target that I have put forward is too challenging for them to meet without carbon credits. There will be a cost associated with the purchase of carbon credits, a huge cost, and it is likely to rise as demand for carbon credits increases as countries try to beat their own local targets. I am content to accept the Members' amendment, albeit it will require some drafting to make it operable.

Clause 9 currently provides a power for my Department to introduce regulations setting out the circumstances in which carbon units may be debited. With the green growth strategy, it is very difficult to secure the funding that we need for the most immediate interventions, and the support that we are currently being offered will not get us anywhere close to achieving the ambitious targets in my Bill. I am not sure where the funding for the future use of this technology will come from because the Department of Finance, led by a Sinn Féin Minister, has not been so good at divvying up when it comes to the environment, when it comes to climate change, when it comes to sustainability and when it comes to green growth. It is ironic that two of the Members who have tabled this amendment indicated, as part of the AERA Committee's deliberations on the Bill, a preference for not investing in such technology or, at the very least, delaying investment in such technology. These people seem very confused.

Ms Bailey and Ms Woods, through amendment No 16, appear to be putting forward a limitation on the percentage of our emissions reductions for a period that we can achieve through the purchase of carbon credits. I am happy to support this amendment in principle, but the drafting is defective and will have to be fixed at Further Consideration Stage. Before I explain what needs to be fixed with this amendment, I have to highlight the fact that it is ironic that Members are so focused on reducing emissions through the process of purchasing carbon credits from other countries. It is not a good credited to our emissions account.

The clause also provides the option for my Department, through the regulations, to set a limit on the amount of such units that can be used to contribute to Northern Ireland meeting its emissions targets for a period. However, the proposed amendment removes the words that connect with the optional power to set limits in 9(1). By doing so, it imposes a limit on the reduction in the account per se. Moreover, the regulations do not themselves specify reduction; rather, they set out a mechanism for calculating the account. Therefore, the actual proposition should be that regulations must set a limit and that the limit must not be more than 25%.

Mr Blair, Mr Dickson and Mr Muir have tabled amendment No 20, which seeks to place a duty on the Department for the Economy to ensure that at least 80% of electricity consumption comes from renewable sources by 2030. This is, obviously, outside the remit of my Department, and, as far as I am aware, it does not align with the targets in the recently published Executive energy strategy, which was supported by those Members' party leader. I believe that the target was 70%. I have spoken to the Minister for the Economy on this amendment, and I have to say that this has the ability to threaten people's electricity supplies in that we will not have adequate electricity supplies. It is not that we are not going to achieve 80% soon, but 2030 is too quick. The 70% target is a reasonable target, and, if we achieve more, that is good.

I turn to the amendments tabled on carbon budgets. Mr McGuigan, Mr McAleer and Dr Archibald have tabled amendment Nos 29, 30, 32, 33 and 35. I will deal with amendment No 29 first. I am in favour of consulting widely and consulting effectively when it comes to new policies and regulations. However, while I support the principle of consultation, I have to question the need for this amendment. Perhaps, in the first instance, the Members who have tabled those amendments are not entirely clear about what carbon budgets are and what they entail. Carbon budgets are the maximum amount of total net emissions that Northern Ireland can or is allowed to emit over five-year periods once we put that into legislation. As per the requirements in the Bill, they have to be consistent with the interim and 2050 targets set in the Bill. The Climate Change Committee advises each of the other UK Governments on the appropriate level of carbon budgets where applicable and will advise Northern Ireland on the appropriate carbon budget levels for Northern Ireland. The Bill also requires that regulations setting carbon budgets are made under draft affirmative resolution, so it is not necessary to state that again or to state that my Department should lay the proposals in the Assembly. The regulations under clause 11 will be subject to the agreement of the Executive, so there is no need to require engagement with other Departments.

The references to engaging with the climate change commissioner and the just transition commission are obviously dependent upon decisions taken on other amendments. In any event, they are not necessary, as relevant engagement would naturally happen as a matter of government and departmental standard engagement with such bodies, if established. It is also important to note that, as per clause 14, the first three carbon budgets have to be set by the end of 2023, while the climate change commissioner may not be established, if the relevant amendment is agreed, until 2024, so the timings do not align. Furthermore, my Department will, as a matter of normal business and in line with the relevant processes, also consult on any regulations made under the clause, so the amendment is both pointless and defective. Therefore, I cannot support it.

I do not agree with amendment No 30 and will not support it. Fundamentally, it would not be appropriate to place a requirement on my Department to take advice from bodies that have no jurisdiction in Northern Ireland on such matters. The Climate Change Committee's role in advising on matters such as carbon budgets is already based in statute and, under my Bill, the CCC will have to advise on the setting of carbon budgets. The Department will also have to take into account consideration of developments in scientific knowledge about climate change and in UK or international climate change law, so any advice or reports from the IPCC will already be taken into account. Of course, the Climate Change Committee already considers such matters when providing advice to the UK Administrations, so we are already covered in that regard. In addition, the amendment purports to cover the seeking of advice from those bodies "on other environmental issues". Including such a broad requirement as that is not appropriate in this context, because there will be other statutory bodies that are responsible for providing advice on certain other environmental issues, and other legislation will cover that. On those grounds alone, the amendment should not be supported, and I certainly will not support it.

To some extent I agree with the principle of what the Members are trying to achieve with amendment No 32, but there are a number of issues with it that mean that I cannot accept or support it. Fundamentally, the drafting does not make sense, and I highlight that because it is important in the context of the proposed amendment. The title of proposed clause 13A refers to factors relating to the "Setting of carbon budgets", while the first sentence refers to "setting targets". Those are two different things in the context of the Bill. Subsection (1)(a) then refers to:

"the objective of not exceeding a fair and safe emissions budget".

That further confuses things, as an "emissions budget" is not a term that the Bill uses. The proposers are basically butchering the Bill with a poorly worded amendment. I assume that they intended to set out considerations to be taken into account in the context of setting targets rather than carbon budgets, as the title suggests, but the clause is incoherent, and the amendment should probably have been to clause 31. I highlight once again that the carbon budgets have to be set at a level that is consistent with the targets, so the key is to get the target right. On that front, the relevant Members who tabled the amendment support a target that does not take account of a number of considerations that their amendment outlines. In particular, I note that one of the considerations is:

"the risk of substantial and unreasonable carbon leakage".

Notwithstanding the fact that those qualifying terms are not defined, the Members have proposed a target that experts have indicated is likely to lead to carbon leakage. You cannot propose something that will lead to carbon leakage by offshoring food production to places that most likely have more carbon-intensive farming practices and then add a few words to the Bill to say that the risk of that has to be considered — doublespeak again from the Members. The thinking around the amendment is clearly confused. The amendment itself is unclear in its intent, and the Members should have instead considered the risks of carbon leakage before going for an unevidenced, unscientific target.

Amendment No 35, from the same proposers, attempts to place a requirement on each Northern Ireland Department, when developing policies under clause 16, to ensure that they are consistent with the targets set out in the carbon budget. Again, this amendment is entirely unnecessary, as it merely duplicates what is already required by clause 16(1), and there is already a duty on all Northern Ireland Departments under clause 29, which is applicable to both the targets and carbon budgets, to carry out their functions in a manner that is consistent with achieving those targets and budgets. Therefore, I do not support this amendment, and I hope that the proposers do not even move it, as it would be a waste of Members' time to even consider a vote on it.

Turning to amendment No 34, tabled by Ms Bailey and Miss Woods, I understand that AFBI is looking into having nitrogen balance sheets for some sectors. I am also aware that work on that has been taken forward in Scotland. Based on the work being undertaken at the moment and the experience in Scotland, 18 months is not an achievable time frame. To pull aspects together in order for the whole system to cover agriculture, food production, waste, transport and energy will require more data gathering and will rely on access to data from all sectors, data manipulation and modelling, as well as on getting input through stakeholder engagement. A more realistic time frame is probably 36 months. With anything short of that, we will end up with a non-granular, unintegrated approach that will not be robust and that will widen the uncertainty around estimates. That will result in obvious issues. Standing up to scrutiny, being open to challenge and providing the supporting evidence for application in a regulatory context will be extremely difficult.

If the Members are genuinely interested in having the work progressed and seeing effective results from it, it can continue to be taken forward without legislation, or I can table an amendment at Further Consideration Stage that covers the requirements outlined but commits us to timescales in which we can deliver the right result. As the amendment stands, I do not accept or support it.

That concludes my comments on the amendments grouped for debate. In summary, there are two amendments from other Members, amendment Nos 15 and 16, that I am happy to support. I cannot support the other amendments for a range of reasons, not the least of which is that some are entirely unnecessary, given what the Bill covers, while others are not entirely clear in their intent. Most fundamentally, I cannot support the amendments tabled to clause 1 of my Bill or those that relate to the interim targets in clauses 2 and 3. I urge Members to reject those amendments and support instead the amendments that I have tabled.

I noted that, in a newspaper at the weekend, Mr McAleer said that — I will find the correct quote — his party would never support climate change legislation that could have a detrimental impact on the agriculture sector. That lasted well, from Saturday to Tuesday. If he goes through the wrong Lobby, that is how long the promise will have lasted.

I ask Members to support all the amendments that I have tabled, including the consequential amendments, and therefore the evidence-based targets in my Bill, which will deliver the UK net zero ambition, deliver significant changes and emission reductions in Northern Ireland and deliver for the Northern Ireland economy and environment. As an Assembly, we need to do the right thing and ensure that we tackle the complex and urgent issues of climate change collectively and in a way that gains support and maximum buy-in from all the sectors.

The targets that I have proposed, based on the best available independent science and evidence, will do that. I have to reiterate once more that the targets will help to deliver UK net zero and are consistent with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are consistent with the Paris agreement pathways and ambitions and are consistent with the preferred option of the respondents to the Department's public consultation to support an evidence-based target in Northern Ireland's first climate change Act. I commend my Climate Change (No. 2) Bill to the House.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank Members for their contributions to what has been a lively, at times, and mostly interesting debate. We have all been listening intently, so I do not intend to summarise Members' comments, but I have picked up common themes relating to this group of amendments, and I want to address those.

"Fair share" got a mention. What is a fair target for Northern Ireland? I remind Members that we are small; there is no doubt about that. We make up 0·02% of the global population, but we emit 0·04% of global emissions. That is twice our share of emissions by population. We emit more emissions per capita than anywhere else in the UK. We emit more emissions per capita than China. What we think of as fair is subjective, depending on the data that we use.

As a developed country, we emit more, so we also have a duty to decarbonise faster. The worst impacts of climate change will be felt in poorer and more vulnerable countries.

I want to address some points in relation to the science, which has been spoken about a lot. As has been mentioned, the science could not be clearer: we are in "code red for humanity". In order to keep 1·5°C within reach and to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate breakdown, we must reach net zero by 2050 at the latest. That is what the science tells us. The science also says that we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030, which is eight years from now. It might be better to frame that in the Chamber by saying that it is two electoral mandates away.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)

We need to follow the science as it is now and as it will develop in the coming years. Once upon a time, humans believed that the earth was flat until science proved that to be wrong. Human history is the story of being led by science and allowing it to help us to find new ways of living. Then there is the ethical evidence. When we know that our behaviour causes harm, the onus is on us to stop that. When we know that we are harming the life and the ecosystems that we need to survive, we must stop that and find new ways of living within our means. The science tells us that, if every person in the world were to live the lifestyle that we enjoy, it would take three Planet Earths to sustain us. We are well beyond our means. We use up more than our fair share, and it is time to turn that around.

The CCC is a highly respected body. No one has ever claimed differently, but it is one advisory body. The CCC advises Northern Ireland solely in relation to its commitments under the UK Climate Change Act 2008; it does not take account of Northern Ireland's unique political and biogeographical context. It is not a policy-setting body, and the CCC's chief executive has also made it clear that, if politicians want to make the political decision to go beyond 82%, they are free to do so. Scotland and Wales did, and we can too, but the CCC will continue to offer advice.

I want to address some of the questions raised on the balanced nitrogen sheets. They are vital for the effectiveness of good climate legislation. They are present in Scotland's climate legislation and have been a great success in helping to establish baselines and in feeding into other strategies. Nitrogen balance sheets do not set targets; they just establish how much nitrogen is being efficiently used — for example, by applying them to grass for agriculture and seeing how much is being lost to the air as ammonia pollution and to our waterways. They are not best located in policy. They are a key element of up-to-date climate legislation and will help to improve public health, water quality, soil quality and biodiversity, as well as helping us to understand nitrogen flows across the island. They are essential to transboundary commitments. Nitrogen balance sheets will help farmers, policymakers and the environment. They are part of good practice and will help us to lower our emissions.

The issue of methane and biogenic methane has also been raised. Of course, we all know that methane behaves differently; it is a short-lived greenhouse gas, although it is far more potent than CO2 due to its heat-trapping ability. No matter what measurement you use, reduction in methane emissions is essential. Unlike with other GHGs, reducing methane and doing it quickly will lead to much-needed cooling effects. It is one of our most powerful levers for slowing global warming. It is for that reason that the Green Party is wary of amendment No 32. We just cannot support the splitting of targets contained in other amendments.

Many Members have cited the KPMG report. We looked at it and found it flawed in its methodology and in scenario planning. They cannot explain where they got their figures from. The report used farm-level financial information to develop models. Subsidies and grants, however, were not included in calculating each farm's income. That automatically skews the figures, especially given the high dependency on subsidies here. In Northern Ireland, 86% of most farm incomes comes from public subsidies, so the figures in the report are simply misleading.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The Member makes criticisms of that report that I do not accept, but where is her report? Where is her economic assessment, or does she think that we should blunder into this without one?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for that. If I had had, say, £40,000 in my back pocket, I could have commissioned KPMG to do one for me, but I did not. Business models are being worked on for the other climate Bill, as has been mentioned many times. That, however, is not the one that we are debating or voting on today.

If you were to calculate farm incomes now without including subsidies, you might also find that the impact on farm incomes was equally devastating. The core assumption used by the model states that there will be dramatic cuts in herd numbers by 2045: up to an 86% reduction in beef, dairy and sheep herds by that date. The figures, however, are not based on the private Member's Bill or on the CCC scenarios. KPMG has not been able to explain where it got its figures from but has told us that it left out public subsidies because it could not guesstimate what they would be in the future. The report does not highlight the impact of climate change and extreme weather on agri-productivity or food production or the job losses that will result from that; nor does it factor in the green jobs that will be created from climate change adaptation and mitigation.

We have all heard about the devastating impacts that Brexit will have on agri-food exports. We have talked about the New Zealand and Australian trade deals that are set to displace most of NI's current GB market. Net zero enables farmers to access EU markets, and we need to grab those opportunities now.

I also want to highlight the evidence that we do not necessarily have to reduce volume or profits to reduce emissions. Options include breeding and pasture-based systems. We would like the CCC to explore such options for agriculture, rather than assuming that it cannot be done under restrictive intensification models. Farmers, however, are stuck in the high-input, high-cost, high-volume output model, and yet they receive, more often than not, less profit or are unable to break even.

We need to understand that farm profitability is linked to partnership with nature and to pay farmers accordingly. The Green Party's amendment in the next group, which is to create a just transition fund for agriculture, will ensure that farmers do not bear the brunt of our green transition. We need, however, to look at Northern Ireland farming and its economic, social and environmental sustainability. We need new policies for farmers that encourage young people to take up farming and ensure a profitable, sustainable industry for them in the decades ahead.

I have listened to farmers tell me how food processors and retailers have become so powerful across these islands and, indeed, across Europe and the world. I hear them when they tell me that there is no longer a free market for food in the EU and the UK and that it is a corporate-controlled free market. I pay attention when I read about a third-generation dairy farmer who started farming in 1965 with 40 cows and could make a living. Now that he has 160 cows, he works seven days a week to keep on top of his business and stay afloat. We need to recognise that not all farmers are against net zero and not all farmers see climate targets as anti-farmer.

Let us recognise that the total number of farms in Northern Ireland has fallen from 32,118 to 24,817 since 1997. Maybe, just maybe, it is not climate action that is the threat to farmers; maybe it is the model of business as usual and the pursuit of intensification that are the real threats.

I have listened to the debate and commentary around the costs and to many arguments about the cost of achieving net zero. It is useful to highlight that the Department had to write to the AERA Committee, during its scrutiny of the Bill, to clarify that the Department's cost estimates were gross overestimations in its projections of the cost to deliver net zero by 2050. The Climate Change Committee also distanced itself from those figures. It was really nice to hear the Minister practise his sums for us this evening when he was doing some carbon credit purchase scenarios. No one anywhere is trying to fool themselves that achieving net zero in Northern Ireland will not involve significant investment and change. There are huge economic opportunities, but we talk very little about those. Let us talk about unlocking green investment. Let us talk about the investment in green jobs. We need to move away from the single-sided narrative that this is all about cost and no return.

Climate action can bring future investment. Climate inaction will not. We must also consider the cost of that inaction. Damages that are avoided by climate action must be compared with the cost of meeting targets. The cost of action has been estimated at about 1% to 2% of GDP. Inaction, on the other hand, could lead to a reduction in global GDP of 10% by 2050 and 25% by the end of the century.

I am, however, glad to hear that there is consensus on the fact that we need to do something about climate change. Regardless of what target is passed here today, I have, and I will continue to have, little faith in the ability of this institution and the five-party Executive model to deliver what is needed. We will need independent oversight if we are to have any hope of holding our feet to the fire and getting the job done. That discussion will follow in the debate on another group of amendments, but it shows how far we have come that climate denial has lost its footing in Stormont. It has, in many instances, however, been replaced by climate delay.

I have concerns that many here do not appreciate the scale and urgency of the crisis that we are facing. I have heard Members say that they supported having net zero even earlier than 2050 until they spoke to businesses and industry, despite the fact that our current way of doing business and our current industries are exactly what are causing the crisis. I have heard Members say that we need an approach that balances jobs and the planet, but there will be no jobs when we reach extinction.

Finally, I acknowledge sincerely the efforts of the departmental Bill team for their engagement with the AERA Committee. I also thank the AERA Committee team for its efforts and the RaISe researchers for all their hard work on the Bill and the first Climate Change Bill. I thank the Bill Office for its continuous work with me on amendments. Members, we are at a crossroads today. It is time that we set a new direction for Northern Ireland.

Amendment No 1 not moved.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Amendment No 2 has already been debated.

Amendment No 2 proposed:

In page 1, line 6, leave out “82%” and insert “100%”. — [Ms Bailey.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Some Members:

Aye.

Some Members:

No.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I remind Members of the requirements for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask Members to ensure that they retain a gap of at least 2 metres between themselves and other people when moving around the Chamber or the Rotunda and especially in the Lobbies. Please be patient at all times, observe the signage and follow the instructions of the Lobby Clerks.

Question, that the amendment be made, put a second time.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 50; Noes 38

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Wells, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Boylan, Mr McGuigan

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Mr Weir

Tellers for the Noes: Dr Aiken, Mr Harvey

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I will not call amendment No 3 as it is mutually exclusive to amendment No 2, which has been made.

Amendment No 4 made:

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 Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I will not call amendment No 5 as it is mutually exclusive to amendment No 4, which has been made.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

We have agreement from the Whips that we will have speedy voting, as it is called. I call it "speedier voting". In accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 49; Noes 38

AYES

Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Bailey, Mr Boylan

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Mr Weir

Tellers for the Noes: Dr Aiken, Mr Harvey

Question accordingly agreed to. Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 6 proposed:

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.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

Ayes 60; Noes 27

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Delargy, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Miss Reilly, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Stewart, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Boylan, Mr McGuigan

NOES

Mr Allister, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Erskine, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Storey, Mr Weir

Tellers for the Noes: Mr T Buchanan, Mr Harvey

Question accordingly agreed to.

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (The emissions target for 2040)

Amendment No 7 not moved.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 (The emissions target for 2030)

Amendment No 8 not moved.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 (Power to amend emission targets)

Amendment No 9 made:

In 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).]

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I will not call amendment No 10 as it is mutually exclusive to amendment No 9, which has been made.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 11 not moved.

Clause 5 (Meaning of "baseline")

Amendment No 12 proposed:

In page 2, line 21, at end insert—

<BR/>

“(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).]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 76; Noes 10

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Dr Archibald, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Mr Boylan, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Ms S Bradley, Ms Brogan, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mr Delargy, Ms Dillon, Mrs Dodds, Ms Dolan, Mr Dunne, Mr Durkan, Mr Easton, Ms Ennis, Mrs Erskine, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Frew, Mr Gildernew, Mr Givan, Ms Hargey, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Ms Hunter, Mr Irwin, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mr Lyons, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Miss McIlveen, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Middleton, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Mr Poots, Miss Reilly, Mr Robinson, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Mr Weir

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr T Buchanan, Mr Harvey

NOES

Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Ms Bradshaw, Mr Dickson, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr Muir, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Muir, Miss Woods

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment No 13 made:

In 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).]

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 (Meaning of “net Northern Ireland emissions account” for a year)

Amendment No 14 proposed:

In 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).]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

Ayes 76; Noes 9

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Dr Archibald, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Mr Boylan, Mr M Bradley, Ms P Bradley, Ms S Bradley, Ms Brogan, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Butler, Mrs Cameron, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Clarke, Mr Delargy, Ms Dillon, Mrs Dodds, Ms Dolan, Mr Dunne, Mr Durkan, Mr Easton, Ms Ennis, Mrs Erskine, Ms Ferguson, Ms Flynn, Mr Frew, Mr Gildernew, Mr Givan, Ms Hargey, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Ms Hunter, Mr Irwin, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mr Lyons, Mr McAleer, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Miss McIlveen, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Middleton, Ms Á Murphy, Mr C Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Mr Poots, Miss Reilly, Mr Robinson, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Stewart, Mr Storey, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Mr Weir

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr T Buchanan, Mr Harvey

NOES

Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mr Blair, Ms Bradshaw, Mr Dickson, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr Muir

Tellers for the Noes: Ms Bailey, Mr Dickson

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 (Meaning of “net Northern Ireland emissions”)

Amendment No 15 made:

In clause 7, page 3, line 19, at end insert—



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

Clause 7, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 (Crediting and debiting of carbon units)

Amendment No 16 made:

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.]

Amendment No 17 made:

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).]

Clause 9, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Members, that concludes the voting on the group 1 amendments. I propose, by leave of the Assembly, to suspend the sitting until 10.30 am tomorrow.

The debate stood suspended. The sitting was suspended at 9.35 pm.

The sitting begun and suspended on 01 February 2022 was resumed at 10.30 am (Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Stalford] in the Chair).