Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said that significant financial support must be forthcoming for the agri-food industry to assist farmers in meeting any binding targets on climate change.
Mr Irwin was speaking after this week’s agriculture committee at Stormont where members heard further contributions on the climate change issue, including oral evidence from Lord Deben, the Chairman of the UK Climate Change Committee.
Mr Irwin said: “As I have stated many times in the Assembly Chamber and in the DAERA committee, any journey towards reasonable progress on climate change targets must be achievable.
“It must also be assisted financially with various schemes of support to ensure that every opportunity is provided for farmers and those in the wider agri-food industry to effectively play their part.
“We heard again from the Chairman of the UK Climate Change Committee during an oral evidence session on Thursday and again Lord Deben gave a very sensible and reasonable assessment of the issue of Climate Change.
“Lord Deben was at pains to state the Northern Ireland target of 82% contribution by 2050 in the Climate Change Committee’s view was ‘doable’ but would be a tremendous challenge in itself.”
He added: “This very reasoned assessment by a Committee of experts stands in total contrast to the Private Members Bill which seeks to commit Northern Ireland to net zero by 2045. The ramifications of this move, were it to be legislated for, would be catastrophic for agri-food and by default the wider Northern Ireland economy.
“What I want to see is a realisation quickly from all parties that we must focus on an achievable target and a deliverable target.
“In order to achieve the target and deliver on climate change, we must then have a sizable support fund for agriculture in order to take additional steps on the road to the 82% target by 2050.”
He concluded: “Almost every action in farming and the production of food requires a significant financial outlay and as the journey to combating climate change impacts will require new ways of working, it is only but right that producers will be assisted in this journey, given the added expense and up-front cost that will arise from this process.
“I have made by views known to the DAERA committee this week and I will continue to resolutely speak up for the farming community in Northern Ireland.”