Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 7th February 2022.

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Debate [suspended on 01 February 2022] resumed.

New Clause

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

We now come to the fourth group of amendments for debate. With amendment No 43, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 44, 50 and 52 to 54. Within the group, amendment No 43 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 38. Amendment No 52 is mutually exclusive to amendment Nos 38 and 43. Amendment No 53 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 50, and amendment No 54 is mutually exclusive to amendment No 44.

I will not call amendment No 43, as it is mutually exclusive to amendment No 38, which has been made. I call Clare Bailey to move amendment No 44 and to address the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I beg to move amendment No 44:

After clause 16 insert—

<BR/>

Just Transition Fund for Agriculture


 


16C. The Department must establish a scheme known as the ‘Just Transition Fund for Agriculture’ to provide financial assistance and advice to the agricultural sector to deliver its contribution under proposals and policies for the purposes of section 16.”

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 50: After clause 16 insert—



Just Transition adviser


 


16I.—(1) The Executive Office shall appoint a person, persons or body to provide advice and constructive challenge to Northern Ireland departments and public bodies in respect of duly applying the Just Transition Principles (see section 16B) across the plans, policies, services and budgets of departments and the Executive at large, on a whole of government basis which recognises that just transition to a low and zero carbon economy will entail whole of society inputs and impacts.


 


(2) In this section, references to a ‘just transition adviser/appraiser’ are to any such body or person.


 


(3) The just transition adviser/appraiser shall


(a) provide advice for the Executive in respect of the requirements for a whole of government commitment to ensure that the just transition principles are duly reflected in the plans, policies, delivery programmes and budgets of all public bodies in Northern Ireland as well as in the Programme for Government;


(b) provide advice to the Department of Finance on a Just Transition Fund or Funds which might support sectors of the economy and sections of the community through some of the costs and challenges of moving towards and achieving carbon neutral targets;


(c) provide advice and constructive challenge to departments and public bodies in respect of the serious and sustained commitments needed across government to achieve adherence to just transition principles;


(d) report on how just transition principles are being supported in practice, appraising the qualitative contribution of public bodies and recognising both performance and pressures in respective sectors;


(e) offer advice on cooperation and coordination with other administrations (including via the NSMC and BIC) to support fulfilment of a just transition;


(f) to facilitate and inform the Assembly&#x0027;s scrutiny of just transition plans, funding and frameworks and oversight of strategic performance and progress, in particular by direct and ongoing engagement with an Assembly Committee designated to oversee progress across government in respect of a just transition as an essential dimension of delivering on the climate action targets and duties of this Act.


 


(4) The Executive Office may consult such persons as it considers appropriate on—


(a) whether this role would best be assigned to a person, persons or a body;


(b) how the adviser/appraiser should engage with respective departments and public bodies;


(c) the status of a just transition adviser/appraiser (and, in the case of a body, its membership);


(d) how the just transition adviser/appraiser might show particular consideration for views from the Equality Commission, Human Rights Commission and other commissions or commissioners in respect of particular rights, needs and interests;


(e) the staff and resources that should be made available to such an office.


 


(5) The Executive Office must prepare a report on the consultation and—


(a) lay the report before the Assembly, and


(b) publish it in such manner as the Office considers appropriate, and


(c) give particular consideration to the views of an Assembly Committee designated to oversee whole of government preparations and performance in respect of both a full response to the climate emergency and ensuring a just transition to a climate resilient and carbon neutral economy.


 


(6) The Executive Office must make the first appointment(s) under this section no later than 18 months after the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent.” — [Mr McGlone.]

No 52: After clause 16 insert—



Just Transition principle


 


16K.—(1) In deciding its proposals and policies—


(a) for the purposes of section 16;


(b) in pursuit of wider and longer-term Executive/Programme for Government commitments on climate action;


(c) to contribute to Northern Ireland&#x0027;s adherence to international targets and obligations to respond to the climate change emergency;


(d) to advance such priorities and purposes through the North-South Ministerial Council, British-Irish Council and other arrangements for structured cooperation on climate action, each Northern Ireland department must have regard to—


(i) the just transition principle (see subsection (2)) and


(ii) the desirability of using and supporting nature-based projects (see subsection (3)), whether alone or with other types of action.


 


(2) The just transition principle is the importance, in taking action to reduce Northern Ireland emissions and increase Northern Ireland removals, of doing so in a manner which, so far as possible, achieves the objectives of—


(a) supporting environmentally and socially sustainable jobs,


(b) in particular, supporting the agriculture sector and other sectors of the economy in Northern Ireland that are likely to be most affected by action to reduce those emissions and increase those removals,


(c) supporting low-carbon investment and infrastructure,


(d) developing and maintaining consensus through engagement with (among others) workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations and representatives of the interests of business and industry,


(e) creating decent, fair and high-value work in a way which does not negatively affect the current workforce,


(f) contributing to a resource-efficient and sustainable economy,


(g) supporting persons who are most affected by climate change, particularly those who may have done the least to cause it or may be the least equipped to adapt to its effects, and


(h) reducing poverty and inequality, including by avoiding their exacerbation as a result of transitional adjustments which are not accompanied by duly targeted measures of social support and mitigation.


 


(3) ‘Nature-based projects’ are projects to protect, restore or sustainably manage ecosystems in order to promote both human well-being and biodiversity or provide other environmental, social and economic benefits.


 


(4) The duty under subsection (1) is in addition to, and does not limit, the duty under section 25 of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 (sustainable development).


 


(5) Each report under section 16 must explain how the proposals and policies set out in the report take account of the just transition principle.


 


(6) Each report under section 16 must include an assessment by the Department of the effect of the proposals and policies set out in the report on small businesses.


 


(7) In subsection (6), ‘small business’ means a business that employs fewer than 50 persons.


 


(8) The Department may by regulations amend subsection (2) or (7).


 


(9) Regulations that amend subsection (8) may define a small business by reference to such matters (or combination of matters) as the Department considers appropriate (including, in particular, the number of its employees, its turnover and its balance sheet).” — [Mr McGlone.]

No 53: After clause 16 insert—



Just Transition Commission


 


16L.—(1) The Department must establish a Just Transition Commission to—


(a) oversee the implementation of the Just Transition elements of this Act, and


(b) provide advice to departments on how to ensure their proposals, strategies, plans and policies comply with Just Transition principles.


 


(2) The Commission will comprise of representatives from, but not limited to, the agricultural sector, the fisheries sector, academia, trade unions, youth groups, civic society and environmental groups.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

No 54: After clause 16 insert—



Just Transition Fund for Agriculture


 


16M.—(1) The Department must bring forward regulations to establish a fund, known as the ‘Just Transition Fund for Agriculture’ to support farmers in making changes to reach the target set out in section 1 and to adapt and mitigate climate change and support research, innovation and knowledge transfer.” — [Mr McGuigan.]

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

In the process of creating our own overdue, obviously, and urgently needed climate legislation, just transition as a concept was relatively unknown or engaged with. I doubt that many in the House would have even thought it possible to embed it in legislation. I am proud that the Green Party has pushed this to the fore via the cross-party private Member's Bill (PMB), and credit should be given to civic society, which has been clear in its demand for the transition to be a fair one that benefits society as a whole, actively seeking to leave no one behind. It is testament to that demand and continued outreach and engagement that we now see amendments from so many co-sponsor parties to the PMB.

There are commonalities in the group 4 amendments, and they all translate into creating cohesive working to build the best possible just transition framework into the Bill. I am glad that our amendment No 41 on the just transition principles has already passed, through previous amendments voted on last Wednesday. Given that, I will make my comments brief and will focus on the just transition fund for agriculture.

To set the context for the debate, it is useful to point briefly to the politics around a just transition. In essence, they are universally accepted as being that the rapid transformational shift to a post-carbon economy must improve and not inflict hardship on the lives of working people and communities. A just transition should improve our social and ecological well-being, while advancing social justice goals. Linked to that is something fundamental to how we enact the legislation. It cannot be something that is done to people; it must be done with people. The changes that will happen over the next few decades will be monumental, and, if we do not bring people along with us, we fail.

It is imperative that we, as leaders, do everything in our power to make sure that people are put at the heart of decision-making from here on. There is a mountain of work to be done on public participation in the process. People need to understand why we are doing what needs to be done and why the changes must be made, and they need to be involved in designing, co-developing and implementing solutions. Climate action has the potential to transform our societies for the better, but it has to be done right. All too often, this institution gets that wrong, and the very systems that we have designed, in which we operate, leave people behind.

Citizens feel excluded and, all too often, powerless, and that needs to change. I, for one, will do all that I can to make it happen.

I will turn to amendment No 44, which establishes a just transition fund for agriculture. That would fund a scheme to provide financial assistance and advice to the agriculture sector to deliver its contribution to the overall target. The amendment is not intended to be overly prescriptive in order to allow DAERA maximum flexibility in designing the scheme.

The fund does not extend to the entire agri-food sector, however, because the extra challenges in decarbonising agri-food stem from emissions from livestock at farm level, while food processing should have no more difficulty with decarbonising than manufacturing in any other sector. The fund therefore needs to be for on-farm support. Workers in food processing plants will be protected by the just transition principles in the same way as workers in other sectors are. For that reason, we would have no issue with supporting the Sinn Féin amendment on a just transition fund for farmers, should our amendment fall. In Scotland, a similar model is aimed at supporting investment in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms. The scheme can be accessed by any business in receipt of the basic payment, and, although the Department will ultimately be responsible for designing the scheme, I fully expect the same criteria to apply to the fund here.

I hope that the amendment alleviates the concerns of some farmers, given the misinformation that they have received that says that they may not be supported to continue to farm well into the future. I was interested to see that the Minister did not guarantee any such support for farmers in any of the amendments that he tabled, preferring instead to trundle on with the business as usual plan, with some environmental additives — the very business model that has led them to be in the dire place where they stand now. I would welcome his support for a fund, and I hope that he can support the amendment.

The Minister has spoken throughout Consideration Stage about farmers being paid not to farm. I caution him against continuing that campaign of misinformation and fear. Farmers can be paid for nature-friendly farming, for agroecology, for rewilding and for taking part in environmental schemes, research, innovation and so much more. They can be paid to invest in new machinery. They can be paid to carry out carbon audits on their farms. The fund is not a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is practical support to ensure that the burden does not fall on farmers' shoulders. If the Bill is enacted, farmers should not be forced to jump through hoops over and over again after being turned down by the Department, as is the case with environmental improvement schemes, for example. That is yet another reason that independent oversight of the Bill will be critical.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Does the Member not blush even a little as, having spent last week pushing through and supporting the most trenchant assault that will devastate our agriculture industry, she now tries to salvage something by talking about a just transition fund? Is it anything more than conscience money from those who have devastated and will devastate our farming industry?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Member for that. No is the quick answer to that one. Over the past few months, I have been in touch with many representatives of the agriculture sector and heard a wide variety of views. In the past week especially, I have heard from farmers who have been told that the net zero vote will result in overnight reductions in herd numbers of up to 80%. It is untrue, of course, but that has not stopped the misinformation from getting out there. It is not going to happen.

The Minister claims to represent farmers, when, in reality, what he is doing is forcing the uncertainty of Brexit on them. Now he tries to blame the consequences of that on the chaos of climate targets that are supported by a majority in the House. Climate chaos will wreak destruction on the Northern Ireland agri-sector, and we all know it.

In recent days, many farmers have reached out to me to express their full support for the Green Party's proposal for a net zero target. Unfortunately, a common theme in that correspondence has been that they are afraid to speak out publicly. What does it say about our culture of political discourse here that some farmers feel unable to contribute to such an important debate? Whilst other actions and rhetoric have silenced some farmers, we have listened to them, and that is why we have proposed the just transition fund for agriculture.

Our amendment No 44 seeks to create a just transition fund for agriculture. It is a necessary measure to ensure that our farmers are supported and protected so that they can survive and thrive well into the future knowing that they are valued, whether they are hill farmers or in the lowlands, whether or not they are on smallholdings, or whether they farm livestock or crops. They all have a part to play, and we need to support them to enable them to do what they do best.

The amendment was led by the AERA Committee during its scrutiny of the cross-party Bill, and I hope that the cross-party support for it remains. I am heartened to see so much support for a just transition in these amendments and that there is significant overlap between Members' amendments. I encourage Members to support our just transition fund as the one that covers most bases. I invite them to work with us at Further Consideration Stage, if need be, to strengthen the provisions even more.

Photo of Declan McAleer Declan McAleer Sinn Féin

First, I will speak on the group 4 amendments on behalf of the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The Committee's support for the principles of just transition was reflected very strongly during the deliberations on the Climate Change Bill and the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill. The Committee supported the just transition principles in one of the earlier groups of amendments. I should say that although the Committee has not taken on a view on the specific amendments in group 4, it very strongly welcomes the principles of just transition.

I will speak briefly in my capacity as a Sinn Féin representative. We feel that it is essential that just transition is at the core of the Bill. We want to ensure that the transition to a net zero society does not adversely impact on any sector. To that end, we believe in the just transition fund. We also believe that it is important that the proposed climate action plans are subject to a 16-week consultation with all sectors that will be involved in the co-design of those plans. It is also important that the plans undergo equality, rural and economic impact assessments, as well as the small and medium business impact test, before being agreed by the Assembly.

We tabled an amendment on just transition funding because it is an issue that we raised during discussions on the private Member's climate Bill. We believe that that is necessary in order to support farmers to make the transition to net zero. We recognise that farmers are the custodians of the countryside, and we cannot do this without them. It is important to work with them, and it is key that they are central to the co-design of climate action plans.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will speak on the group 4 amendments as the SDLP representative on the AERA Committee. Bringing people and communities with us is essential to achieving the reduction in emissions that is required to meet our international obligations, and ensuring a just transition is the key element in achieving that. Every Department and public body will need to assess policies and proposals on the basis of their impact on emissions targets and their effect on communities across the North.

Our amendment No 50 would establish an independent just transition adviser to oversee those assessments and to advise and constructively challenge Departments and public bodies on their application of the just transition principles.

The adviser would, for example:

"provide advice for the Executive in respect of the requirements for a whole of government commitment to ensure that the just transition principles are duly reflected in the plans, policies, delivery programmes and budgets of all public bodies in Northern Ireland" and

"provide advice to the Department of Finance on a Just Transition Fund or Funds which might support sectors of the economy and sections of the community through some of the costs and challenges of moving towards and achieving carbon neutral targets".

The adviser would also:

"(c) provide advice and constructive challenge to departments and public bodies in respect of the serious and sustained commitments needed across government to achieve adherence to just transition principles; (d) report on how just transition principles are being supported in practice, appraising the qualitative contribution of public bodies and recognising ... performance and pressures in respective sectors; (e) offer advice on cooperation and coordination with other administrations (including via the NSMC and BIC) to support fulfilment of a just transition".

We know that, in the agri-economy, the whole island of Ireland plays a vital role, as every day there are movements across the border, North/South and South/North, that facilitate the growth and ongoing development of that economy. Those are very important issues.

We will move on to my second amendment, which expands on the just transition principles and applies them across plans, policies, services and budgets of Departments and the Executive on a whole-government basis. The amendment recognises that just transition to a low- and zero-carbon economy will entail the whole of society's inputs and impacts. I have outlined some of them. Their purposes, through the North/South Ministerial Council, the British-Irish Council, which I have referred to, and other arrangements for structured cooperation on climate change are:

"(a) supporting environmentally and socially sustainable jobs, (b) in particular, supporting the agriculture sector and other sectors of the economy in Northern Ireland that are likely to be most affected by action to reduce those emissions ... , (c) supporting low-carbon investment and infrastructure, (d) developing and maintaining consensus through engagement with (among others) workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations and representatives of the interests of business and industry".

Engagement is very important, and it will be with:

"(among others) workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations and representatives of the interests of business and industry, (e) creating decent, fair and high-value work in a way which does not negatively affect the current workforce, (f) contributing to a resource-efficient and sustainable economy, (g) supporting persons who are most affected by climate change, particularly those who may have done the least to cause it".

As we know, there are many of those people. They are vulnerable, isolated and living on their own and may have not contributed in a substantial way to climate change. For those people, it will help in:

"(h) reducing poverty and inequality, including by avoiding their exacerbation as a result of transitional adjustments which are not accompanied by duly targeted measures of social support and mitigation."

It will also be essential that the corresponding proposals and policies are coordinated with those in England, Scotland and Wales and with those in the rest of Ireland, as already referred to. The existing bodies of the North/South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council, as well as others, are perfectly suited to the constructive engagement that is required.

The first appointment of the just transition adviser should be no later than 18 months after the enactment of the Bill. Any just transition fund or funds should not be restricted to a single sector, as the principles will apply across government, impacting on all sections of our society. Those impacts are likely to be felt more acutely in socially deprived communities.

As we reach the end of this Consideration Stage, I emphasise that the legislation is only the beginning of a journey. If we are to achieve the Bill's objective, the Assembly will have to ensure that each Department and public body keeps their commitments and are there to support people. It will certainly be a challenge for everyone, but transformation is necessary.

Photo of William Irwin William Irwin DUP

I wish to comment on the final group of amendments, which is group 4 and which is headed "Just Transition Principles and Fund". The broad thrust of the new clauses in the group is not derived from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and, again, the proposal of the amendments is akin to a competition between all those parties that wish to out-green each other.

In order to make any transition a success, we must, as an integral part of the United Kingdom, work collectively with the other UK nations in an overall coordinated strategy that meets our climate obligations. Starting from the wrong footing, as I have stated in earlier contributions, will be catastrophic for our economy and way of life in Northern Ireland.

We are now very far away from starting on a firm footing after last week's vote on net zero by 2050. What that means for our economy, Departments and their finances and, of course, every facet of life in Northern Ireland, is that this entire group of amendments should be rejected.

It is one thing to create legislation to address significant challenges in meeting climate obligations based on the 82% reduction by 2050 model. It is a completely different proposition to create legislation on a whim, which is, in reality, what the amendments in group 4 would do. The goalposts were moved considerably — wrongly, in my view — by the vote for net zero by 2050. The entire direction of the amendments has a huge and unknown cost element that has not been fully understood when matched against the Climate Change Committee's view of the massively increased costs in the net zero by 2050 model.

The matter is far from resolved. I have made my views well known on the considerable problems ahead for our agri-food economy due to the decisions taken in the House last week by Members who shunned sensible and reasonable expert advice.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 5:00 pm, 7th February 2022

I declare an interest, as I am the owner of 25 acres of agricultural land, and my parents run a small family farm.

My Ulster Unionist colleagues and I support the concept of a just transition principle, but the question is this: is all of it deliverable? The objectives are laudable. Who would oppose the concept? We will support amendment No 44, the creation of a just transition fund for agriculture. I notice that it is being restricted to clause 16 objectives, which appear under the heading of "Carbon budgets". It would be helpful if clarity could be given on whether the scheme would include advice and support for other greenhouse gas budgeting. Methane is a major challenge to the agricultural sector, especially now that the impossible target, as many believe it to be, of net zero has been set. It would be helpful to be made aware of whether that is intended to be included in the scheme.

The concept of a just transition is a good one, but, again, I ask this: will it be deliverable? Will the expectations that have been mentioned be achievable? Where will the funding come from? How much will it be? Earlier, we were told that it is important that we do not do things to people. The UK Climate Change Committee voiced an opinion that net zero is not achievable for Northern Ireland, given that we feed 10 million people. I would be interested to know how the just transition fund for agriculture will work. Difficulties in the rural economy will undoubtedly result from trying to achieve net zero. There is also the danger that the rural community will not buy into trying to reach a target that has been deemed to be unachievable, and because we are trying to do what we were advised not to do.

Amendment No 50 creates the role of a just transition adviser. Ulster Unionists view that as unnecessarily costly and bureaucratic, and we will oppose it. The available funds should be targeted and go to those who will have been adversely affected. We need to make sure that funds are not absorbed by an additional layer of administration and bureaucracy. I suspect that there will be insufficient funds, and we do not wish to remove some of those from the front line to fund a just transition adviser. The same applies to amendment No 52; we view it as wordy and overly bureaucratic, and we will oppose it.

On amendment No 53, Ulster Unionists also view the creation of yet another commission, namely a just transition commission, as overly bureaucratic and costly. We will oppose it. Bear in mind that there are likely to be insufficient funds to compensate the rural community for the loss of earnings that will be inflicted by the Bill. Accordingly, we do not want to put in another layer of bureaucracy that would absorb the limited funds and reduce the amount reaching the front line.

In conclusion, when making legislation, it is important to set achievable targets and that appropriate levels of support be provided to assist those who have been adversely affected. The Assembly has decided to go beyond the 82% greenhouse gas reduction target set by the UK Climate Change Committee that would enable the UK as a whole to reach net zero by 2050. That means that we will bear a large part of the cost of reaching net zero by 2050, and, as a result, we may not be able to meet the stated objectives, because we may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

Ulster Unionists recognise the need for a climate change Act that covers more than a decade so that we can play our part in protecting the planet. We are far behind England, Scotland and Wales. The rest of the UK has a credible legislative pathway and has already made substantial changes. We support the independent UK Climate Change Committee's recommendations that we contribute our fair share of an 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions so that the UK can reach net zero by 2050.

We are on a journey. Industry, the rural community, planning — particularly in the countryside — and how we build and insulate our homes will all change going forward. Time will tell whether the ideals that have been set are deliverable and a just transition will happen or whether many will suffer because of what many consider to be unachievable targets.

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

At the outset, I say that we in Alliance recognise that tackling the climate emergency goes hand in hand with economic and social justice. Northern Ireland should lead the way in its ambition by putting a just transition at the heart of its legislative process and its Civil Service. We need a green recovery that is investment-driven and that paves the way for a green transition.

It is over a decade since the financial crisis of 2007-08. It is clear that austerity measures have failed to aid recovery and have instead left us more vulnerable to future crises. In 2020, the UK economy suffered its sharpest GDP reduction in over 300 years, which was also the worst annual economic decline in the G7. It is increasingly clear that the economy across the UK, and specifically that in Northern Ireland, will not bounce back by way of a V-shaped economic recovery. Off the back of a lost decade of austerity, we are likely to see considerable unemployment, sluggish growth and worsening inequality.

Low productivity and high economic inactivity have long characterised our economy in Northern Ireland. Investment in infrastructure and in research and development has been lower than that in comparative regions. A significant UK-wide economic stimulus and investment-led green recovery is required. Investment in the traditional drivers of economic growth — namely, skills, infrastructure, and research and development — must be accelerated and considered through the lens of a green transition that prioritises investment, well-being and the planet; that creates tens of thousands of secure green jobs; that prioritises a vast and diverse range of reskilling and retraining opportunities; and that ramps up investment in research and development to ensure that Northern Ireland is a leader in green opportunities and innovation.

I turn to amendment Nos 44 and 54. I have no objections to our agri-food sector's being supported in the transition. In fact, I tabled a similar amendment that would also have provided financial support and retraining for people whose livelihoods and jobs will be affected by the measures proposed in the Bill. Unfortunately, that amendment was not accepted. I am, however, grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and your office for the amendments that have been accepted, thus allowing us to debate robustly the concept.

Almost 30% of Northern Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture, compared with 10% in the rest of the UK. That reflects the importance of agriculture to our economy. Our farming sector is also much more heavily based around livestock and is likely to remain so. It is vital that we support our farmers to embrace the essential role that they play in tackling the climate emergency and that we do so by adopting environmentally beneficial farming practices, reducing their carbon footprint and better using and protecting natural resources and biodiversity.

I am delighted that the sector-specific plan for agriculture was passed by the Assembly. It is my hope that implementing the proposal and establishing mandatory agricultural audits will help farmers to transition to carbon neutrality.

A just transition presents us with enormous job opportunities across existing and emerging industries and ensures that reskilling opportunities and new jobs are as wide-ranging as —

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member advise us of the budget that has been committed to the just transition commission or principle?

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

I thank the Member for the intervention. I hope that he can accept that I am not in a position to give such a definition or such assurances. Given the discussion that we had earlier today about securing a Budget for the next three years, I am sure that he will understand that I cannot commit beyond that.

I was talking about existing and emerging industries and ensuring that reskilling opportunities and new jobs are wide-ranging. We can do that by placing social dialogue at the heart of decision-making. Together, we can simultaneously combat the climate change emergency and inequality through investment, radical change and breaking down the barriers of division. My colleagues and I will support the amendments that are aimed at securing that just transition.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

Today's fourth group of amendments are a vital component of this climate Bill. I hope that, after this debate, we will have strengthened this climate legislation by clearly setting out our thoughts on a just transition and its principles, by agreeing the need for a just transition commission to oversee those principles, and by confirming the need for a separate just transition fund for agriculture.

In most debates in here, we use terminology, phrases and jargon that often mean little to people outside of this Building. I suspect that "just transition" is one of those phrases. I have said time and again during the debates on this climate Bill that nobody and no community can be left behind on the North's climate journey to net zero by 2050. In simple language, a just transition is a set of principles and protections that ensure that no one is negatively or disproportionately affected during the conversion to a net zero society. The policies that emanate from the climate Bill must be fair and just. They must ensure that livelihoods and incomes are protected and that we take full advantage of the many opportunities that are offered by the creation of a green economy.

A just transition will be important across every sector of society. It will affect those who work in construction and those who work in the energy and electricity sectors. It will impact on our businesses and tradespeople and on how we heat our homes, fuel our vehicles and much more. Some of those changes may be challenging to different sections of our society. Some may be challenging to our elderly population, and some may be more challenging to rural communities. At the bottom of them all, we here in Government must ensure that the costs and burdens are not met by the most vulnerable in our society, or those on the lowest incomes. A just transition must protect workers, families and communities. We have supported just transition amendments in the debates on the previous groups, and we are happy to support amendment No 44 and others in this group.

Given the amount of discussion that we have had during this climate Bill debate about our agriculture and agri-food sector, Sinn Féin felt that it was vital to propose a separate just transition fund for agriculture. I am happy to support similar amendments that have been tabled by others. Let me be very clear to all who are listening and all who have misquoted me and Sinn Féin Members during parts of this climate Bill debate: Sinn Féin has always stood by the farmers of Ireland, whether they farm in north Antrim or north Kerry. We stand by the farmers of this island today in this Chamber and during this debate, and we will continue in word and deed to stand by the farmers of Ireland long into the future. We will not take any lessons from the DUP Minister or DUP MLAs on how to protect farmers and the agri-food sector. The DUP, through its support for Brexit, has taken away the long-term certainty of EU funding and delivered trade deals with Australia and New Zealand that will greatly damage our local farmers and economy. So bad are the trade deals that the DUP has brought us that they could wipe out the farming sector over the next 15 years.

Rural communities across all 32 counties of Ireland are at the coalface of climate change. It is they who will suffer the brunt of floods and droughts that will intensify without the necessary political leadership. We, in Sinn Féin, are determined to provide that leadership. We will demand that any policies that are made as a result of the Bill are fair. Ours will be an all-Ireland approach in character and delivery, because we know that it is ludicrous to suggest that we plan for different targets in different parts of this country. North and South, we will demand that climate measures are fair.

Sinn Féin will not allow beef and sheep farmers in less-favoured areas to go out of business, as some people have suggested. That is total nonsense. We will not tolerate food production in Ireland being reduced only to be replaced with unsustainable imports from the other side of the globe. We will protect the interests of family farmers and the communities that depend on them.

I note that, recently, the Ulster Farmers' Union has produced car stickers that state:

"We are part of the climate change solution".

I absolutely agree with that sentiment. Sinn Féin will ensure that farmers in the North are part of the solution in a fair and just way that allows them to continue to produce their excellent product and drive forward and support the economy here in the North. That is why we have tabled amendment No 54 on a separate just transition fund for agriculture and have added many other protections for farmers and the agri-food sector to the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill. The agriculture fund that Sinn Féin has proposed is designed to support farmers in making changes to reach whatever fair targets are set for agriculture through the sectoral plans and to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The fund will also support research, innovation and knowledge transfer. As I have said, all industries will be required to make significant changes in the years ahead, but it is important that we recognise the unique role of agriculture as a primary producer and the unique source of its emissions. A bespoke fund to assist farmers in making the necessary changes is both justified and necessary if we are to reach our emissions targets.

Just as independent oversight is required to ensure that the Bill is fully implemented, a just transition commission is required, in our view, to ensure that all aspects of the Bill are compliant with just transition principles. Similar to the climate change commissioner, the just transition commission that we propose at amendment No 53 would have not only a watchdog role but an advisory one, offering Departments advice on how to best ensure that their policies and proposals are just transition-compliant. As always, —

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

— it is imperative that the commission is made up of people who know their own sector best, whether that is infrastructure, agriculture, civic society, trade unions, academia, young people or local community groups. As I said, that is an important aspect of the Climate (No. 2) Bill. We will support all the amendments that bring forward a just transition and policies in a fair and equitable manner for everybody in the North.

Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP

Having now voted to reject the expert recommendations of the CCC and others, MLAs who are cheerleading for unrealistic targets now deem it necessary to include the establishment of public funding to offset the impending damage to the economy and, most importantly, to our agriculture sector.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Member who spoke previously, who would not give way, talked much about how there would have to be a just transition commission etc to ensure that it happens. The expected reduction in income to the agri-food industry will be hundreds of millions of pounds. Is the Member aware of what proposals there are to replace that fund so that no one will be worse off, or does he agree with me that there is huge danger that they are creating something that is unachievable?

Photo of Harry Harvey Harry Harvey DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention. No amount of transition funding will be sufficient to prop up an agriculture sector that finds itself crippled by unachievable targets and unable to compete with counterparts across the UK and on the world stage.

It is ironic that amendment No 43, for example, seeks principles that "support jobs and growth of jobs". That sort of window dressing will be meaningless against the backdrop of unachievable targets. Jobs will be lost, not grown, as a result of the Bill. That is the reality. The CCC made clear, time and again, why 82% by 2050 was the ambitious, yet realistic, target. I am firmly of the view that Members will rue the day that they ignored the expert advice on those issues.

Farmers in my constituency did not want just transition funds. They wanted to work with government to do their bit. They want to improve their processes to reduce their methane and carbon emissions, and they strive towards that which can be achieved, not towards some utopian concept. Without sectoral buy-in, this legislation is going nowhere. In case Members opposite have not realised, farmers have not bought into unrealistic targets.

In my earlier remarks, I emphasised the gravity of this legislation and its impact on society and our constituents. The votes thus far have proven that some parties are more interested in the optics and sound bites than they are in tackling climate change. All that will be gained by a move away from the science will be the exporting of our carbon emissions elsewhere in the world, most likely somewhere with much poorer environmental standards and much higher carbon emissions. In 2030, people in the UK will still need to be fed. In 2045 and 2050, people in the UK will still need to be fed. Instead of increasing our environmental targets and reducing our carbon footprint, we will be importing our beef from halfway across the world, and likely destroying the Amazon in the process. How can that be viewed as tackling the climate crisis?

On the just transition funding elements in this grouping, I am keen to hear where MLAs think the funding will come from. Will the parties opposite reduce health or education budgets to create this fund? It is all well and good establishing such a fund, and, unfortunately, such a fund will be needed, but we need to know where the money will come from. Subsequent to last week's votes, farmers are wondering how they will survive in business. Will the so-called just transition fund end up being a "transition to retirement" fund for many in the agriculture sector?

The Department presented a Bill based on sound expert evidence. The House has now decided to ride roughshod over that evidence and reject it in favour of positive political optics. The reality will not be so positive, and no amount of public funding will be able to mitigate that.

Photo of Cara Hunter Cara Hunter Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the group 4 amendments on the just transition principles. Rightly, all parties across the House have detailed the concerns of farmers. Today, for group 4, I will touch on that and the importance of a just transition. Just before Christmas, I met farmers in Claudy and Park, which are in my constituency. I spoke with them about their honest concerns and their fear of the generational impact in farming families. I personally found that very helpful, especially for today's debate.

As a party, we recognise fully that any legislation with robust targets must be underpinned by adequate long-term funding supporting our farming communities. We want the correct funding to ensure that we can support and work with our farmers in tackling the climate crisis. Having met farmers in my constituency, I note that they want to diversify and help to be part of tackling the crisis. That is why we have added amendments to group 4 today. The SDLP tabled amendment No 50, moved by my colleague Mr McGlone, to strengthen legislation for our farmers. It details the vital importance of a just transition adviser. What that might look like is a person, persons or body that will provide advice to talk about the societal impact. Most importantly, it will also provide detail to the Department of Finance for the just transition fund or funds to support sectors in the economy or sections of our community through those costs and challenges to meet those targets.

The SDLP also tabled amendment No 52, articulating the just transition principle, highlighting:

"in particular, supporting the agriculture sector and other sectors of the economy in" the North

"that are likely to be most affected by action to reduce those emissions".

The SDLP believes that those are the correct steps necessary to support a fair and just transition.

At Westminster, our leader, Mr Eastwood, has come forward with a climate change Bill that is ambitious, with emissions reductions targets to protect and restore our ecosystems and construct resilient infrastructure to protect our livelihoods. I have a significant concern for ecosystems, especially in the North. When we talk about climate change and an impact on the environment, I look to my constituency specifically, where I see the same problematic companies, which I believe are reckless profiteers, ruining our countryside across the Sperrins for residents from Park, Dungiven, Claudy and beyond. Constituents have voiced their disdain for the damage to our environment by companies, and they feel that it is beyond their control. They feel the injustice and are angry at the damage to our landscape, and that is a prime example of the importance of environmental legislation to protect our land. To not speak up about those issues in the House is a dereliction of duty, and that is why I am speaking up today.

As political leaders, we have to put our money where our mouths are, and the SDLP will continue to tackle the climate crisis in a just and fair way. The climate crisis is here, and so many can see that. It is time that Governments worldwide catch up with the people on the ground.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

The phrase "just transition fund" may, on the surface, have some appeal, but the question is this: transition to what? What are we transitioning profitable, producing farmers to? If you listen to the experts, we are transitioning them to indolence, non-production and inactivity: that is, in farming terms, to failure. The House wantonly rejected the evidence last week, and the targets that the House has now set will be targets of decimation. We are transitioning to decimation.

It is all very well for Members from Sinn Féin to get up and give the sound bite that they will always stand by the farmers of Ireland, when, last week, they voted to decimate farming in Northern Ireland and, in particular, to decimate hill farming and to produce a situation in which many hill farms will cease to be viable. It is no good them simply coming to the House with platitudes and saying that they will stand by farmers, when, last week, they plunged the knife into the back of farming in this country, as deep as they could plunge it.

The fatuous talk of a transition fund is just that. As I said in my intervention to Ms Bailey, it is just to salve their conscience, if they have a conscience about that matter. It is to say, "Oh, well, we're not going to leave you in the lurch. Yes, we are going to take away all your key production. Yes, we are going to reduce the amount of food that you can have. Yes, we are going to radically reduce the head of livestock that you can have. Yes, we are going to leave you struggling in an untenable and unviable way, but we are going to throw a little money at you to salve the House's conscience".

What is this money? It is totally uncosted. Nobody in the House can stand up and say what the transition fund is that they want the House to vote for. They neither know nor care, I suspect. The mentality of some is that it is up to others to produce on the financial demands that we make. Sorry: it all has to come out of a very limited pot called the block grant. Where will you take such money as will be available from? No matter how much you take, it will never make up for the devastation that the House is consciously and deliberately inflicting on the farming community: never can it make up for that.

I say this to the House: yes, some people might think that they will salve their conscience for what they are doing to farming by talking about transition funds. They may go round in the coming weeks and try to hoodwink farmers into believing that they have looked after them and that there will be money for doing nothing. The farmers whom I know are not too easily hoodwinked, and they see right through this. They know what cabal of MLAs in the House has voted to decimate farming. I believe that many farmers will be none too forgiving, nor should they be.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 5:30 pm, 7th February 2022

We already touched on some issues around just transition during the debate on the group 2 amendments on proposals and policies. There is a crossover with some of the amendments in this group, and some of my points will be similar to those that I raised during last week's debate. However, all the points are worth making. An important outcome of effective climate change legislation and effective legislation more generally is the delivery of results in a manner that ensures fairness and equality and that encourages the constructive engagement and coordination of approaches where possible. The targets in my Bill were originally based on evidence and a balanced pathway that can deliver a meaningful just transition. A lot of people have used the term "just transition" loosely. It, effectively, requires us to deliver that transition to a greener, more sustainable economy and environment in a balanced way in which everyone is adequately supported. The delivery of a just transition is at the heart of the evidence that informs the original targets in my Bill. A fundamental aspect in ensuring a just transition is to make sure that the targets are not only ambitious and challenging but achievable. The targets in my Bill were based on the Climate Change Committee's balanced pathway and were set at a level that could be achieved through a just transition.

When farmers read the papers at the weekend or on Thursday, they will be greatly encouraged by the debate today. Ms Bailey announced that they will not have to cut livestock by 80%. That is great news for the farmers. The problem is that Ms Bailey does not have anything to back up that statement. It is OK because she said it. All the evidence, however, leads to something else. The warnings from the Climate Change Committee, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the professional reports are all ignored, but it is OK because Ms Bailey said so. It is also really good news for the farmers this week that Sinn Féin will stand by them. Where was Sinn Féin last week? We all heard that Mr McGuigan had another appointment when the farmers asked him to meet them in Loughguile; he bravely sent some secretary from his office. Hundreds and hundreds of farmers were here again last week, even though the BBC showed a much smaller protest on the news that evening and ignored the fact that many people had given up their working day to come to raise their concerns. There were hundreds of farmers on the steps of Stormont last week. I did not see Mr McGuigan, Mr McAleer or any of their colleagues out there, because they were afraid to speak to the farming community, which has genuine and real concerns. If people think that these concerns have been whipped up by me or anyone else, I am afraid that they do not understand farmers. They are quite discerning folk who will arrive at their own conclusions based on what they see, hear and know. They have arrived at the same conclusions as us, because that is the reality.

What we hear from Mr McGuigan about trade deals is just a deflection. If the trade deals are as bad as that — time will tell — how much worse will it be when this is imposed on top of them? How much worse will it be when farmers in Australia, who will not have to reach the same exacting standards, can export while our farmers are being crucified as a consequence of what is being imposed on them by Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party, People Before Profit and Alliance — thank you for reminding me. That is the reality that faces farmers and farming families.

Now we come to a just transition. Why do you need a just transition? Why are we proposing to take money from Education, Health, Infrastructure and Justice to give to farmers?

It is because you are taking something off them. What are you taking off them? Their livelihoods. The truth of what is being proposed today is as if you took a loaf of bread off the family table last week and are saying today, "Here are a few crumbs that might keep you going". It is not a just transition. I do not mind supporting it, because it may be helpful to some families, but you cannot mitigate the damage that was done as a consequence of ignoring the science and the voice of the farming community last week. Well might Sinn Féin Members sit with their heads down today. They should be ashamed of themselves, and people who are ashamed of themselves sit with their head down.

A just transition cannot be delivered if a completely unrealistic target is set. Therefore, as a result of the decision taken by the Assembly to support a net zero target, it will be difficult and, indeed, extremely costly to deliver a just transition. It will cost hundreds and hundreds of millions. We simply do not have the money to pay everyone who will be overly negatively affected by that target. I have to ask whether it will include people who work in factories. If 13,000 farming jobs are lost and there is an 80% reduction in the meat or dairy sector, there will have to be a corresponding reduction in jobs in the processing sectors, which employ tens of thousands. There are more jobs in those sectors. Essentially, what Members voted for and supported last week was the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in rural towns and villages across Northern Ireland. Craigavon, Dungannon, Cookstown, Enniskillen and Omagh are all places where thousands and thousands of people rely on the agri-food industry for their jobs. To gain popularity with certain sectors, however, Sinn Féin, Alliance, the SDLP, the Green Party and People Before Profit voted to deny those people the opportunity to have jobs.

Some Members who have tabled amendments on just transition principles seem to believe that the inclusion of some just transition principle wording in legislation will somehow solve all of society's problems and enable the achievement of any target: it will not. It will, however, be useful in outlining relevant considerations when developing policies and programmes and delivering actions. The actions that we deliver and how successfully we deliver them are what matter. That will have the biggest impact on our sectors and communities.

I pose these questions: who will pay for the just transition and who will pay for more commissioners and advisers? My goodness, how many commissioners does this country need? We will soon have more commissioners than farmers. That is how ridiculous it is getting. Given the decision to support a non-advised, unevidenced and morally wrong net zero target, other parties will have to step up to take forward and fund action that will support the sectors, communities and people that will be negatively impacted. Look at the cost of going for an unevidenced target: it is clear from the Minister of Finance that the funding will likely have to be taken from our block grant. Which Departments will relinquish funding from their budget to make up the billions needed to meet that unevidenced target by 2050 and, indeed, beyond? A just transition cannot be tackled by a short-term or one-off fix.

Some of the original amendments in the group have been dealt with by virtue of the debate and votes on the amendments in group 2, including my amendment No 38, which was passed. Therefore, I will not address amendment Nos 43, 44 and 54.

Mr McGlone has proposed two amendments in the group. The first is amendment No 50, which deals with the establishment of the just transition adviser. The second is amendment No 52, which deals with the just transition principle. Amendment No 50 is one of several from members of the AERA Committee that would establish new bodies and roles. We need to be careful when committing to the establishment of any new body in legislation that has not been fully scoped out or costed, where other bodies already perform the relevant functions or where there are commitments to establish such bodies.

I agree with Mr McGlone that, in trying to deliver a just transition, we need to have the right supporting structures in place. We are also debating the establishment of a just transition commission today, so I question the need for a just transition adviser on top of that. I hope that instead the Member and the Assembly see that the just transition adviser is essentially the same thing as a commission.

As politicians, it is our duty to the public to have some sense when it comes to the creation of those new roles and bodies. If the intention is to have a just transition adviser as well as a justice transition commissioner, I do not think that we can responsibly commit to the establishment of both without having properly considered how they would interact and what the different functions would be. We cannot throw money at bodies and advisers that have unknown roles and functions or that will duplicate the functions of another body. Where is the logic and sense to that?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Does the Minister agree that, if insufficient funding is available to any such commission, adviser or expert group, no matter what it does, it will not be able to deliver a just transition and it will have no chance of achieving what is meant to be its stated objective? Does he agree that the fact that there are not hundreds of millions of pounds available every year from the block grant means that it would be largely wasting the limited money that is available?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for raising that. I will remind him and others of a wee saying in the country: you cannot take the breeches off a highlander. If the money is not there, you will not be able to deliver a just transition.

The reality is that the Members who are proposing the just transition and saying that the funding package be produced are the same Members who will stand up on other occasions and complain bitterly about the lack of money for everything that they have to do now. They want more money for the Department for Communities, the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, and so it goes on. Where will they get that money from? I am afraid that there is no magic money tree at the bottom of the garden. It does not exist, and, consequently, those proposals may just be a bluff to try to persuade farmers that those Members are doing something to help them.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for giving way. I appreciate that. Does the Minister appreciate, understand and support the notion that, going by the UK Government's reports, if unchecked and probably even with mitigations, climate change will cost the UK economy upwards of £20 billion per annum by 2050?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I am glad that the Member raised that point, because Ms Bailey has a habit of saying that the do-nothing option is not an option. That is why we made the proposals in conjunction with the Climate Change Committee. Nobody is proposing to do nothing. The proposals that were brought to us by the Climate Change Committee are quite onerous, but Members say, "No, that hair coat is not hard enough for us to wear. We want a bigger one". However, it is not us who will have to wear it; it is mainly the people in the farming community who will have to wear it.

I accept that we need to do something. I support our doing something. There are a host of opportunities to address the issues in a sensible and rational way, but the punitive way that is being imposed on the farming community, which is bearing the brunt of the proposals, is wholly unnecessary. I remind the Member of the figures that were quoted last week. I thank the Member for engaging in the debate, because I note that Sinn Féin Members are not engaging in it today, which indicates how defeated their arguments are and how they are picking up on the resentment from the public for what they have done.

I remind the Member of the figures. I do not have them in front of me, but I remember them. The difference between meeting the 82% target and the 100% target is less than 0·75% of the UK's contribution. Under the Climate Change Committee's proposals, Great Britain picks up that 0·75% so that Northern Ireland does not have to. Instead of sharing that around and recognising the high value that the rest of the United Kingdom puts on the quality food that Northern Ireland supplies to it, Members want to do away with that option.

The outcome of that is that we will simply engage in carbon exporting.

Over the last number of years, we have introduced carbon marking on farms, identifying how much carbon is produced. Our beef and dairy farms are coming out with figures of between half and a quarter of the emissions that are produced in other places in Europe and in North and South America. The vote last week will ensure that there is more carbon in our environment as a consequence of doing away with carbon-efficient farms in Northern Ireland and exporting those jobs to South America, North America and other parts of the world. Where is the logic in that? I certainly can find none.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes, certainly.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Minister agree that there is nothing just about legislation that is supposedly to reduce carbon emissions but will actually result in increased carbon emissions by increasing importation from places that are higher emitters?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes. The Member raised that repeatedly last week, in fairness to him, to the point where some were getting annoyed at him for doing it. The fact is there: we see our carbon emissions, and they are considerably less than those of others. Brazil has already said that it wants to increase its cow herd by millions. The consequence of little Northern Ireland putting on this hair shirt will not be the achievement a reduction in carbon emissions overall; it will lead to an increase in carbon and Northern Ireland exporting that carbon elsewhere.

I say again that a separate just transition adviser and just transition commission on top of everything else are a waste of public money, as they would carry out, as far as I can see, similar functions. I am not necessarily against one, but I am certainly against having two.

I have concerns about some of the provisions in the amendment, including references to the North/South Ministerial Council, British-Irish Council and:

"an Assembly Committee designated to oversee whole of government preparations and performance in respect of both a full response to the climate emergency and ensuring a just transition to a climate resilient and carbon neutral economy."

No such committee currently exists, therefore it is not appropriate to refer to it.

Given that there are potential issues with the content of the amendment that I have outlined, uncertainty as to the cost involved and uncertainty as to whether the adviser is to replace or work alongside a just transition commissioner, I cannot support it.

It is clear that, with amendment No 52, as with some other amendments that we discussed in a earlier debate, there is no common or agreed understanding of what exactly "just transition" means, even among the Committee members who pushed for it heavily. I had already tabled amendment No 38, which creates new clause 16A to cover just transition and other elements covered by amendment No 52, and it was agreed last week. The amendment from Mr McGlone draws largely from my amendment but contains additional elements that are not necessary and add nothing. The references to the Programme for Government and to international targets and obligations are misplaced. The proposals and polices referred to are those that will enable us to make carbon budgets. If we do that, we will meet our domestic and international commitments.

Again, I am not clear about the purpose of the reference to the North/South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council. Is it to add to the responsibilities of those bodies, in which case it would not be appropriate in this Bill, or is it merely to indicate that the bodies should be used to support Ministers in what they are already required to do, in which case the provision would not do anything and is unnecessary?

In drawing from my new clause 16A, under amendment No 38, amendment No 52 covers more than just transition, as it touches on small business impact assessments and nature-based projects. Given that my amendment already covers those issues effectively, has no questionable or pointless elements and was agreed with the AERA Committee, I do not support amendment No 52 and urge you to reject it.

Finally, Mr McGuigan, Dr Archibald and Mr McAleer tabled amendment No 53, which is about establishing a just transition commission. As I highlighted when I spoke to Mr McGlone's amendment No 50 for a just transition adviser, a commission would ideally need to be scoped out and costed properly and its functions clearly defined in order to offset any duplication or incoherency in advice etc that the commission might give. Although, given the circumstances, I am not against the principle of establishing a just transition commission, the proposed amendment is lacking in detail about how the commission would be established and funded, what powers it would have and what its structure would be. It would therefore be better to be given time to scope out and develop that. Doing that would also afford us time to pay the appropriate and essential attention to detail that such a commission requires.

To achieve a just transition, particularly for the agri sector, we will need to provide high levels of financial support, given the unfortunate decision taken last Tuesday to take forward the amended emissions target, so perhaps a just transition commission can help get across to Members just how much it will cost to deliver a just transition in the light of the target. With all the evidence that is available, I have tried to do so, as has the Climate Change Committee, but perhaps another body that Members agree to establish will be able to convince them, even if the best available scientists could not. I would, of course, like to see proper scoping out and consultation be done before such a body is established, but I am not in favour of allowing important sectors and communities to suffer because of ill-informed and poorly judged decisions being taken by politicians on the basis of aspiration alone. As such, I will not oppose the amendment.

To conclude, I am strongly in favour of our achieving a just transition. I note that the Members who have pushed for the unevidenced net zero target have all said that there will not be negative impacts on agriculture, so I look forward to seeing them stand by those statements in the months and years ahead and when it comes to securing further funding and taking further action.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Thank you, Minister, for that contribution.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

My goodness. From listening to the Minister rhyme off the list of support and then call for Northern Ireland to do better, one would nearly think that it is the whole world against the DUP. I thank Mr Beggs for raising the issue of extending any funds in a just transition fund for agriculture to farmers in an effort to reduce all greenhouse gases, not just carbon, and I see no reason why that cannot be made possible. I need to remind Members that the CCC's model for Northern Ireland was that of an economic supply chain model, not a scientific one, which is why it has stated repeatedly that there is no technical reason that we cannot get to net zero.

From where will the money come? In Scotland, its fund is set at £51 million over the next three years. If we have the political will, we can create solutions as well. It is not all about public money: public and private money will be needed right across the board. For example, if we apply something as simple as the "polluter pays principle" when we know that a quarter of UK farmers live in poverty while agri-food corporations such as Moy Park published turnovers of £1 billion last year, how can we say that that is fair? How can we say that that is just? How can we say that we cannot do better? The recommended UK Government investment to tackle climate breakdown is somewhere in the region of £50 billion a year in the CCC's report, and that contains a mixture of public and private money. How much of that will come to Northern Ireland? If we ever get a working Executive again, they will need to pressurise Westminster for fair funding.

The CCC is calling for the UK Government's low-carbon investment funding to increase from around £10 billion in 2020 to around £50 billion by 2030, and then to stay at that level. It is setting a net zero target that will help us unlock that investment. To those in the House who are worried that climate investment will come out of health spending from the block grant, it is fair to say that, no, that is not the case.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Magic money tree

[Inaudible.]

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

Read Hansard then.

I will repeat, for the Minister's benefit, what I actually said about reduction numbers:

"Over the past few months, I have been in touch with many representatives of the agriculture sector and heard a wide variety of views. In the past week especially, I have heard from farmers who have been told that the net zero vote will result in overnight reductions in herd numbers of up to 80%. It is untrue ... It is not going to happen."

That is what I said.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

No, thanks.

I need to address claims that the protections being discussed today are no good, that had we set a different target last week we would not need them and that the 82% is, in and of itself, a just transition. We do not get to decide what a just transition is, because it is led by people, in collaboration with communities, and people overwhelmingly want strong climate action. Maybe that is what the struggle is here.

Some parties seem to have forgotten that agriculture is only one of many sectors that will have to make the transition. When an economic assessment says that the sector cannot go that 18% further because of the economic modelling, it is the economic model that we need to look at. All sectors contain workers who stand to be impacted by decarbonisation. Even with the Minister's target, all of those sectors would have to reach net zero. Do you really think that we should not put in protections?

If the Minister and others really think that 82% constitutes a just transition, even with the tunnel vision on agriculture, I advise that they read the CCC's report again. If you look at that report, you will see that its vision for agriculture is one where huge, efficient farms meet our food needs and small- to medium-sized farms no longer exist. That does not sound very fair and just to me, and it does not look like it represents our agriculture sector in Northern Ireland.

Upon the Bill's passage, the business-as-usual model of profiteering and overconsumption will have to end, not only because of the damage that it does to our planet and our environment but because of the risk that it poses to our citizens, people and communities. It is not right that so many people struggle to heat their homes and feed their families while others profit from that. At the end of this month, gas prices alone are set to rise again — by a third this time — after similar increases were set in December and October. Meanwhile, last Thursday, Shell, a global fossil fuel, gas and petroleum giant, announced that its profits have increased fourteenfold, so much so that it plans to hand $8·5 billion back to its shareholders.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Does that not prompt the Member to recognise the folly of outsourcing energy and importing it from other countries, including Russia, which can turn it on and off as they please? Therefore, is it not a particularly foolish exercise to suggest that we not only outsource energy production but also food production for much of the United Kingdom? I want to see these islands having both food and energy security and producing most of their food and energy locally so that they are not as open to the variables of world markets and to dictators and regimes that are less than favourably disposed towards us?

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

I thank the Minister for that timely intervention, given that we are talking about energy. The UK's energy price cap is set to rise by 54% this year, for example. Meanwhile, the French Government have introduced measures to limit bill increases to 4% this year. I look forward to working with you in the future in order to make sure that we follow new systems and make decisions that protect our people and put them at the forefront.

If only we had politicians who were brave enough to do the same; if only consecutive Tory Governments had not sold off our state-owned utilities because they prioritised short-term profits over long-term stability. A key part of a just transition is the democratic transformation of our economy. Business as usual has ended, and we need to prepare for that, not walk away from Ministries when the going gets tough. Now, more than ever, we need to take the power and capital out of the hands of the few who profit and return it to the many who need it. That is what a just transition is about.

As the power of polluting corporations rises, we see relentless attacks on workers' rights and democracy across the globe. Jobs created in the green economy must address that while simultaneously addressing climate change. A just transition will see jobs created in new industries that provide decent pay, decent protections and decent working conditions. Trade unions, communities and NGOs will work with them, resulting in co-design and job creation that will raise the quality of life for those who will work in the emerging sectors.

As the debate at Consideration Stage nears an end, we are getting a little closer to achieving a climate Act for Northern Ireland, and we are doing it democratically with consent insofar as consent can be garnered under the system by which we are governed. We have made great strides. Not long ago, climate change denial was rife throughout the Chamber. I and many others never thought that we would see the day when we would have such consensus across the political spectrum that action on climate change was urgent and necessary. I certainly never thought that I would see the day when MLAs voted to enshrine a net zero target in law.

It is worth looking at how far we have come, where we want to go and at the future opportunities that we want to be part of. Northern Ireland will continue to move forward, whether some like it or not. Progress is inevitable. We will have a net zero climate change Act for Northern Ireland in whatever form it takes, because people want it and the climate emergency demands it.

I thank Members for what has been a long few days of debate and voting, with a few more hours to go. There has been an immense amount of cross-party working, and it has been heartening to see politicians from all sides work together to ensure that we have the strong, ambitious and robust climate legislation that we need and deserve. We also need to credit the activists and campaigners whose support and energy have been crucial in getting us to this stage. I give particular credit to the farmers who have stuck their heads above the parapet to show public support for a strong net zero Bill in the face of such adversity. I thank all the children and young people who take part in the "Fridays for Future" strikes and who have the vision and determination to demand more of us on climate breakdown. I also thank the Climate Coalition Northern Ireland, which kick-started the campaign for a Northern Ireland climate Act. Stormont has only got to this point thanks to the tireless work of those grassroots campaigners and activists. I thank every constituent, individual and organisation who has contributed to shaping the Bill so far. The voice of the people has been heard; the will of the House has been recorded; and I hope that the Minister will respect democracy, because it is time for a climate change Act for Northern Ireland.

Amendment agreed to.

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 45 proposed:

After clause 16 insert—

<BR/>

Policies and proposals: targets


 


16D.—(1) Policies and proposals under section 16 shall contain targets to be achieved during the relevant budgetary period in the following areas—


(a) soil quality; and


(b) biodiversity


but these targets are subject to subsection (2) of this section.


 


(2) Targets under subsection (1) must be set in a way best calculated to achieve the relevant carbon budget after taking the following matters into account—


(a) international law, including, in particular, the UNFCCC;


(b) the impact of such targets on the environment of Northern Ireland;


(c) the impact of such targets on public health and well-being;


(d) the impact of such targets on fiscal, economic and social circumstances specific to Northern Ireland;


(e) the just transition principles.


(f) the transboundary impact.” — [Ms Bailey.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 6:00 pm, 7th February 2022

Before I put the Question again, I remind Members present that, if possible, it would be preferable to avoid a Division.

Question put a second time.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask you to maintain a gap of at least 2 metres between you and others when moving around the Chamber or the Rotunda and especially in the Lobbies.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> 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: Ms Bailey, Mr Blair

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.

New Clause

Amendment No 46 proposed:

After clause 16 insert—

<BR/>

Policies and proposals: further provision


 


16E.—(1) Policies and proposals under section 16 must ensure that the relevant carbon budget is achieved in the following sectors—


(a) energy production and supply (including for residential, public and district heating and cooling purposes);


(b) transport (including shipping and aviation);


(c) infrastructure (including infrastructure for electric vehicular transport);


(d) business and industrial processes;


(e) residential and public (in relation to buildings in these sectors);


(f) waste management;


(g) agriculture;


(h) land use and land-use change, including forestry;


(i) fisheries; and


(j) the provision of financial assistance to any person in connection with:


(i) the promotion of economic development in Northern Ireland or any part of Northern Ireland; and


(ii) the provision of infrastructure, goods or services in Northern Ireland or any part of Northern Ireland;


provided that, when setting out policies and proposals in respect of energy production and supply, the advices and recommendations of the SEM Committee in relation to the exercise of its functions under Article 6(2) of the Electricity (Single Wholesale Market) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 (No. 913 (N.I. 7)) must be obtained and must be taken into account.” — [Ms Bailey.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I have been advised by the party Whips, in accordance with Standing Order 113(5)(b), that there is agreement that we dispense with the three minutes and move straight to the Division.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> 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: Ms Hunter, Miss Woods

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 Harvey, Mr Irwin

Question accordingly agreed to.

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 47 proposed:

After clause 16 insert—

<BR/>

Policies and proposals: nature based solutions


 


16F. Policies and proposals under section 16 shall as far as is practicable, support nature based projects that enhance biodiversity; protect and restore ecosystems; and seek to reduce, or increase the removal of, greenhouse gas emissions or support climate resilience.” — [Ms Bailey.]

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: Ms Armstrong, Miss Woods

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.

New Clause

Amendment No 48 proposed:

After clause 16 insert—



Policies and proposals: impact on small businesses


 


16G. Policies and proposals under section 16 must—


(a) explain how the proposals set out in the plans are expected to impact on the workforce, employers, including but not limited to small and micro businesses, and communities; and


(b) set out proposals for supporting the workforce, employers, including but not limited to small and micro businesses, and communities.


(c) ‘Small and micro businesses’ means businesses with less than with less than 50 employees.” — [Ms Bailey.]

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: Ms Bailey, Miss Woods

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 Harvey, Mr Irwin

Question accordingly agreed to.

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Members, I propose, by leave of the Assembly, to suspend the sitting until 7.30 pm.

The debate stood suspended.

The sitting was suspended at 6.58 pm and resumed at 7.30 pm.