DAERA Minister Edwin Poots and Ulster Farmers’ Union president Victor Chestnutt met separately with the UK
High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping during his three-day visit to Northern Ireland last week.
Mr Topping was visiting the region to meet local businesses, farmers, city representatives, and civic society
organisations to see the positive climate work being delivered locally and to raise awareness and ambition of potential action going forward.
Mr Chestnutt’s meeting took place at Augher, County Tyrone, on the home farm of Allister Crawford, who won the UFU and Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) under 18 climate change competition.
He said: “The meeting with Nigel Topping gave us the opportunity to emphasise what our farmers are doing daily to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farm while continuing to produce high-quality food for the nation to world leading environmental and animal welfare standards.
“Our farmers are a vital part of the climate change solution.
“Our members are committed to doing all they can to address the issue, especially when it impacts them so significantly.”
Renewable energy technologies, low emissions slurry spreading equipment, fertiliser efficiencies, carbon audits and the ongoing research and projects from AFBI, Queen’s and CAFRE were key talking points.
“Allister highlighted the positive actions that have been taken on NI farms to date to Mr Topping, including on his own family farm in County Tyrone.
“He outlined the great work he, like many other farmers, are doing such as implementing renewable energy technologies, improving efficiencies and increasing carbon sequestration through planting hedges and farmland trees.
“Allister discussed the ways in which he wants to develop their family farm business to benefit both the environment and consumers.
“Crawford’s farm is a great example of how our farming families are adapting their farm businesses to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in a way that allows them to continue to produce high-quality food.
“Also, how our young farmers who are the future of this industry are steering agriculture in a positive direction with an environmental focus at the forefront.
“NI farmers can be part of the climate change solution. However, we need the right legislative and policy framework to be able to deliver the balance of high quality food production and low carbon farming,” said Mr Chestnutt.
The NI Executive’s lead for COP26, Mr Poots said: “There is already a significant amount of good work underway in Northern Ireland to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.
“I am delighted that Nigel will get the opportunity to see some of this positive work during his visit to Northern Ireland.
“Many of our departments, cities, councils, businesses and industries are already taking steps towards a greener economy.
“As the NI Executive’s lead for COP26, I am keen for Northern Ireland to support the UK Government’s ambitions for this historic summit.”
DAERA is leading the way on a number of key initiatives that will drive climate action and help Northern Ireland support the UK’s COP26 objectives.
This includes the Forest for our Future initiative, a Clean Air Strategy, a Peatlands Strategy, development of the NICS Single Use Plastic Plan, the roll out of the Northern Ireland Environment Strategy, amongst other activities.
Mr Poots said: “I recently launched ‘Sustainability for the Future – DAERA’s Plan to 2050’. A long-term plan for my department, with sustainability at its core, setting out a vision for a healthy environment, health economy, and a healthy population and how my department will deliver this over the next 30 years.
“My department is also leading on the development of the Executive’s multi-decade Green Growth Strategy and Climate Action Plan as well as developing policy proposals for climate change legislation.
“Once finalised, the Green Growth strategy will be the NI Executive’s route map to addressing our climate and environmental challenges by delivering a resilient recovery and brighter future through a greener, low emissions and circular economy for Northern Ireland, whilst contributing to the wider UK Net-Zero by 2050 target.”
Mr Topping said: “On my first trip to Northern Ireland as the UK Climate Action Champion for COP26, it is encouraging to hear about the work already underway and planned and how it is feeding to the UK’s ambition for COP26 and beyond.”
Mr Poots says while it is important to champion all the positive work on-going and planned, he recognises there is still work to be done: “There are many opportunities for Northern Ireland to continue to drive climate action and reduce emissions.
“However, it must be done in a way that is just and does not do irreparable harm to our local economy.
“I am committed to Northern Ireland playing its part on a local, national and international stage to address climate change; supporting the UK COP26 objectives; and contributing to the UK hitting its net-zero target by 2050.”