Farm businesses are already taking practical steps to help reduce emissions and tackle climate change, Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has said.
The Minister was speaking at the Agriculture and Climate Change: A Countryside COP event’ at CAFRE’s Greenmount campus, jointly organised by DAERA and the Ulster Farmers’ Union in advance of COP26.
Minister Poots said: “Next week the UK Government will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, also known COP26, in Glasgow. While COP26 will have a global focus, we all have a role to play when it comes to tackling climate change.
“Today’s conference participants heard about the work my Department and others are leading on to help support the industry on its decarbonisation journey and also the practical examples of ways farm businesses can and are reducing emissions, for example the ARCZero project and the work being led by CAFRE on carbon calculators.
“At this moment in time, agriculture, along with transport, energy and buildings are amongst the big emitters of greenhouse gases in Northern Ireland. Whilst this presents our industry with significant challenges, I believe there are also many opportunities – including the potential for the agricultural sector to contribute to address these challenges.
“The future is about delivering both food and environmental outcomes in a sustainable way. Our farmers are up for the challenge and, indeed, many have already invested in green technology and embraced environmentally-friending farming practices which we have heard some examples during today’s conference.”
Re-emphasising his desire for Northern Ireland to take full advantage of the opportunity to develop a sustainable agricultural industry, Minster Poots added: “It is my focus, and that of my Department, to ensure that we have sustainable agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors; which help to create a clean, healthy environment that benefits people, nature and the economy in alignment with the Executive’s Green Growth approach.
“With this in mind, I am delighted to announce the launch of a new Soil Nutrient Health Scheme for Northern Ireland. This is an innovative and forward looking soil sampling and carbon analysis scheme aimed at building from the ground up by putting an increasing emphasis on improved soil nutrient health and farm carbon, and I will be making this scheme available to all farmers.
“When operational, the new scheme will – for the first time – provide farmers with detailed information on soil nutrient levels for every field on their farm – along with an estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees.
“My Department has successfully piloted this concept, which is why I’m confident that providing farmers with detailed information specific to their own lands, will help them farm more sustainably. Further details on the soil scheme will be made available next month.”
Concluding, Minister Poots added: “To achieve success we must work together, not only across government – but also businesses, industry and civic society across all sectors. It is important that Northern Ireland plays its role in supporting the UK to deliver both a successful COP and achieving UK Net Zero.”