Speaking following his meeting with the Ulster Farmers` Union, UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“It was a pleasure to meet the Ulster Farmers` Union at their Headquarters on Wednesday in my role as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“It was an extensive and useful meeting and we touched on many issues including climate change. I find it`s always better to engage directly with people because you get to hear directly what people`s concerns are and vice versa. I found it very productive and the Ulster Unionist Party will continue to engage with and listen to the views of the farming community in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“Changes to the climate will affect everyone whether they live in urban or rural communities. Climate change is happening and we can`t ignore that, yet Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which doesn`t yet have climate change legislation and it`s simply not good enough. We may be a small part of the United Kingdom, but we must play our part. That`s why we support climate change legislation. It was deeply regrettable that it took a Private Members Bill to force the issue of Climate Change legislation on to the political agenda of the Executive. I welcome the fact that the DAERA Minister is now in the process of bringing forward climate change legislation.
“I also welcome news that the Minister for Agriculture and his officials are now meeting with Clare Bailey in trying to find common ground between the two Climate Change Bills and seeking to establish if a common approach can be agreed on progression of the Bills or indeed the amalgamation of the Bills. There will be a lot of speculation about those discussions, but the best result is if agreement can be reached on one amalgamated Bill. This is too important an issue for politicians to attempt to score political points.
“Political differences need to be set aside and we all need to work together to arrive at the best solution. As part of the Ulster Unionist Party`s own consultation we have spoken directly to dozens of people and organisations from across Northern Ireland including the Agri-food sector and we remain in listening mode. Going forward the Ulster Unionist Party supports climate change legislation which includes a target of a reduction in carbon admissions by at least 82% by 2050. We won`t be able to hit that target without the support of farmers.
“Equally however we recognise that many farmers right across the country, as custodians of the land, are already doing so much to protect the environment. Initiatives such as planting woodland and hedgerows are hugely valuable. As a local political leader, I also recognise the huge array of benefits in terms of the quality and traceability of the produce from Northern Ireland farmers.
“What I was enthused about in my conversations were the new ideas coming from the Agri-food sector to help hit climate change targets. I am also acutely aware that to hit climate change targets it will take the input of so many other industries and sectors to hit our climate change targets. This challenge cannot rest solely on the shoulders of the farming community.
“The critical issue now is ensuring that climate change legislation is in place before the end of this Assembly term. The key issue is getting started and the sooner the better. For the farming sector, the Minister now needs to bring forward a plan for supporting the Agri-food sector in the months and years ahead.
“There are also so many other issues to address and the Ulster Unionist Party and its representatives, many of whom coming from the farming community, will continue to speak to and represent their views. We are here for the next generation of farmers.”