UFU comment on IPCC report

Friday, 9 August, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is a positive step forward that the recent IPCC report highlights the importance of balanced diets, which include animal-sourced food produced in a sustainable way. However, it is frustrated by media reports that have cherry-picked certain elements to further anti-meat arguments.

The comments were made in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on land use across the world and its impact on climate.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson said, “We have reviewed the report in detail and are encouraged that the IPCC recognises the importance of a balanced diet that includes animal products produced sustainably. However, farmers often don’t get the credit they deserve for the work they do to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

“We are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally. However, we disagree that reducing livestock numbers in the UK is part of the solution. All this would do is export livestock production to countries where environmental standards are lower and result in increasing global emissions. This makes no sense from a climate change perspective.”

Mr Ferguson says greenhouse gas emissions from beef production on the island of Ireland are 4.5 times less than those of South America.

“Currently, UK Trade Minister Dominic Rabb is travelling around the globe trying to strike post-Brexit deals with countries that often have lower environmental and animal welfare standards. Meaning we would essentially be exporting our climate responsibilities and sanctioning the destruction of tropical rainforests to create grassland for livestock. Why do this when 70 per cent of land in Northern Ireland is classified as LFA, much of which is not suitable for growing crops and vegetables, but ideal for livestock production,” he said.

As the population grows, the UFU recognises there is a challenge in mastering the delicate balancing act between the rising demand for food and tackling climate change. Farmers are already coping with a changing climate and extreme weather events such as floods, drought, severe snowfall and storms, and recognise action must be taken.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a challenge for NI agriculture but farmers are up for it. There have been gains, with the NI dairy sector reducing its carbon intensity by 30 per cent since 1990. Productive and efficient agriculture needs to be recognised as part of the solution. Our typical grass-based farming systems in NI help to manage many habitats and produce quality products from land that is unable to produce other crops. Grassland, farmland hedges and trees are also crucial for carbon sequestration,” said Mr Ferguson.

The UFU has been part of Northern Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Industry Partnership since its inception almost 10 years ago and has been working to deliver the targets set out in the strategy.

“We are active members of this industry partnership which was set up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our sector. Farmers are committed to tackling greenhouse gas emissions through improving production efficiencies, producing renewable energy and encouraging carbon capture.

“It is a shame that on the back of 24 Hours in Farming, which saw Northern Ireland farmers taking to social media to showcase and celebrate the phenomenal work the UK agri-food industry does, that we have to defend the industry against biased and selective reporting of the IPPC report,” said Mr Ferguson.