Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 9th March 2022.

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Photo of Rosemary Barton Rosemary Barton UUP 10:45 am, 9th March 2022

I thank all those from whom we took evidence on the Climate Change (No. 2) Bill. I also thank everybody in the Assembly who supported us in many different ways.

Today, at Final Stage, we are looking at a very different Bill from the one that was introduced. Many supportive amendments have been made, while some clauses have been removed and replaced with alternatives. The Bill now has 65 clauses and is divided into five Parts.

Not everything in the Bill will please everyone. Northern Ireland will not be immune to the severity of the impact of the issues of climate change as part of the United Kingdom. It must accept that legislation and targets are needed for the reduction of emissions in line with the Paris climate change agreement. As part of the UK, Northern Ireland must, therefore, now work towards reducing its emissions. It must also remember, however, that it has a duty to not permit the carbon leakage that comes from imported foods.

The agriculture sector of course accepts that meeting the emissions targets over the next number of decades will be challenging. The separate methane target will, however, realign Northern Ireland with the Climate Change Committee's balanced pathway for agriculture. The agreed amendment will see methane levels fall to 46% from their 1990 levels by 2050 and will contribute to our net zero target. By separating methane, which breaks down relatively quickly in the atmosphere and is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, farmers can now use the available scientific data, which indicates that food additives can reduce methane emission by up to 30%.

With continued research, innovative ideas and improvement in science, the impact on the farming industry, while challenging, will hopefully ensure the continuation of a thriving agriculture sector and allow agriculture to contribute to tackling climate change. The Bill will contribute to the protection of our environment in, I hope, a sustainable and sensible manner for generations to come. I commend the Bill.