RSPB NI calls for ambitious agriculture reform to help NI farmers deliver climate solutions

RSPB NI

Thursday 10 February 2022

RSPB NI has revealed case studies demonstrating how farmers are already delivering nature-based solutions on their farms, which play an important role in helping Northern Ireland to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Today, in response to the Assembly debate on the Climate Change (2) Bill, the charity calls on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to implement ambitious agriculture policy reform and to re-purpose funding to support farmers to deliver a safer climate, a nature-rich countryside, and diverse economic landscape rural communities.

RSPB NI has revealed case studies demonstrating how farmers are already delivering nature-based solutions on their farms, which play an important role in helping Northern Ireland to adapt to the impacts of climate change as well as storing and sequestering carbon in soils, trees and vegetation. Farmer case studies show how a nature and climate friendly farming approach has led to more profitable farm businesses as well as delivering benefits for the environment.

It also identifies the support farmers need to transform the sector and for all farmers to reap the rewards of nature-friendly farming.

David Laughlin who owns Culmore Organic Farm, the longest established organic dairy farm in Northern Ireland, commented: “Every farmer can do great things for nature and climate. On our farm, we have boosted our income through nature-friendly practices. We only coppice our hedgerows every 15 years, which has increased our ability to sequester carbon and benefit the local wildlife. But this change of approach requires government support and funding that is accessible to farmers.”  

Northern Ireland ranks 12th worst in the world for biodiversity loss and it is the only part of the UK and Ireland without legally binding climate legislation that would enable a transition to a more sustainable economy. Last week for the first time ever a Climate Change Bill passed through the consideration stage at the Northern Ireland Assembly and is scheduled to pass through two further Assembly stages before it passes into law.

John Martin, Head of Policy and Advocacy RSPB NI commented: “Northern Ireland can no longer afford not to legislate on climate. We are delighted to see that the Climate Change Bill has now been amended to include an additional clause on nature-based solutions and the addition of a Just Transition Fund for agriculture, but it must also align with the environmental ambitions of future agriculture policy which is set to change for the first time in a generation”

“Farmers are responsible for managing 75% of the land in Northern Ireland. They can protect, restore and enhance our natural ecosystems which underpin resilient communities, economies and landscapes. Therefore, the government must use this opportunity to effectively fund farmers to deliver these benefits while still maintaining profitable and successful farm businesses.”

A survey commissioned by RSPB NI last year showed overwhelming support from four in five MLAs to financially reward farmers for the delivery of environmental public goods. Public goods can include clean water, improved air and soil quality, climate adaptation and mitigation, and enhanced biodiversity. 

Simon Best, a mixed arable farmer from County Armagh commented: “We have incorporated biodiversity-friendly habitats on around 10% of our farmed land. I also undertake woodland, wetland and minimum hedgerow management in order to support nature.

“We have witnessed an increase in biodiversity, recording the presence of barn owns, breeding lapwing, otters and numerous other bird species. I believe Northern Ireland needs to be ambitious in its targets to ensure that we see progress and action as soon as possible.”  

Read the full report here

Last Updated: Thursday 10 February 2022

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