Farmers in Northern Ireland have welcomed a key amendment to proposed climate change laws that politicians are debating in Stormont.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said there is “huge relief” after the Northern Ireland Assembly voted in support of a separate target for methane in agriculture, brought forward by agriculture minister Edwin Poots.
However, Mr Poots failed to secure his other key amendment, which sought to remove emissions from agricultural sources from Northern Ireland’s net zero target.
The successful amendment states that the level of reductions in methane emissions would not be required to be more than 46% lower than the baseline year (1990).
Mr Poots said this is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK’s Climate Change Committee’s evidence and advice in regards to reducing methane to achieve the long-term temperature goals in the Paris Agreement.
A majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) backed the amendment during a debate at the climate change bill’s further consideration stage, on Monday evening (28 February).
The UFU said the amendment met its calls for a science-based approach.
It follows concerns the agriculture sector was being unfairly burdened as part of the assembly-agreed net zero by 2050 target for Northern Ireland.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “Our farmers are utterly relieved that a separate methane target has been supported by MLAs, bringing us back in line with the Climate Change Committee’s balanced pathway for agriculture.
“Farmers have not been let off the hook by any means.
“Big changes will be required of agriculture to meet it, but supported by science and expert advice, our farmers are well up for that challenge and are eager to get to work on combating emissions.”
The UFU said it was still worried about Green party leader Clare Bailey’s separate climate change bill “lingering in the background”.
Ms Bailey has called for net zero carbon emissions by 2045, compared with the bill originally proposed by Mr Poots, which had sought to limit the target for greenhouse gas emissions in NI to an 82% reduction by 2050.