Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 9th March 2022.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 11:45 am, 9th March 2022

I was just about to respond on that, so the question did not need to be asked. I recognise that the agriculture and agri-food sector emits around 27% of carbon emissions. It has reduced its emissions over the years, but it has not reduced as much as some other sectors have. The energy sector's move from coal to gas production has helped significantly. As a consequence of things that are happening now, there is some movement back to coal, which is hugely regrettable. That regression is taking place because of circumstances that are beyond anybody's control. The agri-food sector is looking at the challenges and will meet them, but that needs to be done in a timely and constructive manner.

I mentioned where I was this morning and the opportunities that are to be derived from anaerobic digestion. Instead of doing away with cows, we can capture more of the methane that cows produce and use it to heat people's homes and run vehicles. How is that not a logical solution for a food-producing country? How is it a better idea to grow thistles and weeds, which, by the way, does not help biodiversity, than to grow grass, grain and protein crops? There are opportunities to do more of those things.

I understand where Mr Allister is coming from. There will be a herd reduction as a result of the Bill, but that does not mean that there has to be a reduction in agricultural output. There are opportunities to grow alternative crops, including protein crops and foods such as kale, spinach and wild rice. Those things may seem far-reaching, but, over the next number of years, we will be looking seriously at crops like those in order to ensure that we can continue with food production in a significant way. There will be alterations, and I and the farming community accept and understand that.

Anaerobic digestion gives significant opportunities in horticulture because of the heat that is produced as well as the electricity. Many significant opportunities can be derived from growing crops like tomatoes, horticultural plants and so forth because we will be able to produce power and energy from animal nutrients and cattle slurry etc.