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Northern Ireland needs the right, rather than any climate change bill, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has said.

The Minister has expressed his disappointment about the outcome of Monday’s Private Members Bill, which he says will impact negatively on the agri-food sector and the environment.

He said: “The Private Members’ Bill has passed its second reading without any regard to either the long term sustainability of our hard-working agri-food sector, nor the long term achievability of the environmental targets and commitments contained within the Bill.

“This Bill will not only have a negative impact on our rural community, it will also have a negative impact on the environment – as unachievable deadlines and unreasonable demands will disengage the very people who are a part of the solution to this issue, our farmers. We must get full buy-in and face this challenge collectively.

“I have major concerns about the outworkings of this Bill including:

  • The inclusion of a net zero by 2045 target;
  • The lack of evidence provided by the Sponsors and drafters of this Bill and the lack of impact assessments, without so much as an attempt to provide any;
  • The apparent disregard for the expert and independent evidence and advice from the UK Climate Change Committee;
  • The lack of consultation whereas I undertook a proper consultation;
  • The very significant costs to the public purse from implementing and meeting the requirements of this Bill, which will serve to push our emissions overseas rather than having a contribution to the reduction of overall global greenhouse gas emission.”

The independent experts of the UK Climate Change Committee have categorically stated that a net zero target by 2050 for Northern Ireland covering all greenhouse gases cannot credibly be set at this time. The CCC have advised on the basis of their evidence and analysis, that an at least 82% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is an appropriate and fair contribution to a balanced pathway to UK Net Zero which aligns with the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The Minister continued: “We don’t need just any climate change bill – we need the right climate change bill that sets out an achievable pathway for Northern Ireland to contribute to the wider UK and global efforts for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

“I have alternative, evidence-based and properly consulted upon policy proposals which I have tabled for discussion at the Executive – I want these to be heard as soon as possible so that I can move quickly to introduce an Executive Bill to the Assembly.

“My role is to try and protect and enhance our environment in a sustainable way and ensure that we have a thriving agricultural sector in which they are custodians of the environment. We should not therefore be promoting actions and passing legislation which would prevent us from fulfilling that responsibility.

“In every discussion I’ve had with the agri-food community about the environment, it is clear how seriously they take their vital role to protect the environment, which of course they rely on more than most. The Northern Ireland agri-food sector have said collectively they are fully behind the need to address global warming and to reduce emissions in Northern Ireland, the UK and indeed worldwide. I hope the legislature takes its responsibilities as seriously and helps me introduce a sensible and ambitious Climate Change Bill.”