The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has made it clear in its response to DAERA’s consultation on Northern Ireland’s (NI) pathway to net zero, that it opposes livestock cuts to meet 2030 targets, and the carbon budget and targets proposed beyond 2040.
UFU president David Brown said, “Action is needed to tackle the biggest issue facing the planet, but we cannot support any targets or proposals to achieve net zero that will significantly impact our food security and supress our pasture-based livestock industry with no benefit to reducing global emissions. The majority of our politicians dismissed the original advice of the CCC, and since then, the committee have struggled to find a pathway to deliver on the legislative targets for net zero by 2050.
“Cutting livestock numbers is not going to change consumer demand for dairy and meat. It will result in products produced to lower standards being imported to replace what we can no longer produce. If this happens, we wouldn’t be playing our part in tackling climate change, we would be passing the buck. We would be putting countries that have higher emissions from food production and are working to feed a growing global population, under pressure to produce more food.
“It’s critical that a balance is found between sustainable food production in NI which is the backbone of rural communities, and climate action to prevent carbon leakage. Especially when NI dairy farming has reduced its carbon intensity by 34% since 1990 and greenhouse gases from UK beef are about half the global average. Government needs to step outside their bubble and wake up to the social and economic impact their net zero targets in NI will create at home and abroad.
“The UFU is largely in support of DAERA’s alternative suggestion for reducing emissions from agriculture based on the policies and proposals within the Future Agricultural Policy Programme. This remains a very tough challenge for the industry, but we will continue to combat climate change. Agriculture is one of few sectors in NI that has policy ready, and a budget allocated to continue delivering climate action in line with the first carbon budget. It’s vital that policy supports us to do the same without supressing local farming.”