KPMG report proves 2045 climate change target will hit NI hard

Monday, 16 August, 2021

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says KPMG’s economic impact assessment on the Private Member’s Bill (PMB) confirms a net zero target of 2045 for Northern Ireland (NI) will not only be the ruination of the agriculture industry, but it will create a staggering on-farm job loss of 13,000 and a reduction of £11 billion in economic output with no guarantees that the bill will reduce emissions. Predictions of an 86 percent reduction in cattle and sheep numbers are needed to hit the 2045 target in NI which would wipe out traditional grass-based family farming systems. 

The UFU in conjunction with the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), NI Meat Exporters’ Association, Dairy Council NI, NI Pork & Bacon Forum and the NI Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) commissioned KPMG to conduct the economic impact assessment on the far-reaching consequence of the Private Member’s Bill (PMB). It is tabled by Claire Bailey MLA and supported by Alliance, UUP, SDLP, SF and some independents. The PMB supporters did not produce an economic impact assessment or rural needs assessment on the proposals leaving the industry with no choice but to commission independent experts at KPMG to investigate the impact.

Other key findings from KPMG’s economic impact assessment include:

  • The viability of the beef, dairy and sheep sectors are most at risk from herd reductions, while the pig and poultry sectors are likely to be relatively less impacted. Farm level viability will become significantly challenged once herd reductions reach 20 - 40 percent.
  • Total economic output would fall by between 8 - 66 percent across the sectors analysed. The negative impacts extend further when considering a reduction in the sector’s capital investment activities, as well as the knock-on impact of herd reductions on abattoirs and other processors.
  • Overall herd reductions could lead to a 54 percent decrease in total employment on farms.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “Climate change legislation is necessary to tackle emissions from NI; farmers and the agri-food sector are willing and must play their part in tackling global warming. However, we have said from the get-go that NI needs climate change legislation that is fair, credible and backed by science-based evidence supporting local farmers in their efforts to reduce emissions without diminishing our ability to produce food to world leading standards. KPMG’s report undeniably shows that the Private’s Member’s Bill fails to deliver the climate change policy that NI needs to combat emissions appropriately. Instead, it will cause devastation for rural families and communities, and the NI economy as a whole.”

Dairy Council for Northern Ireland chief executive Dr Mike Johnston said, “Family run cattle and sheep farms form the backbone of the rural economy. Wiping out these farming businesses for the sake of delivering a further 0.73 percent reduction to UK emissions over and above the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) advised target, is in no way rational. It would reduce our highly successful dairy sector to a cottage industry creating widespread job losses across farms, processing and ancillary industries, taking us back to levels of milk production last seen in 1946. Unless consumers eating patterns change, dairy and meat produced to lower standards will be imported from other countries to replace high-quality local produce. It would cause carbon leakage with no benefit to greenhouse gas emissions or global warming, and increase levels of food poverty.”

The KPMG report shows that the most marginal areas in NI will be the hardest hit.

LMC chief executive Ian Stevenson said, “With a 98 percent reduction in beef and sheep farms in marginal areas, farming will be almost completely wiped out in the most rural parts of NI and our countryside, biodiversity and societal enjoyment of well managed farming landscapes will be severely impacted. People living in these rural areas will be left without jobs and other employment will be harder to find. Rural families, whether they are from the farming community or not, are going to be the ones left to pay the price of a 2045 net zero target for NI. As an industry we have been accused of scaremongering, the facts of this economic impact assessment speak for themselves.”

The UFU president concluded stating that NI politicians need to do the right thing and listen to the advice of the CCC before it’s too late.

“Without a doubt, significant changes will be needed on farms to help reduce emissions. Our farmers are already contributing to the UK target of net zero by 2050 and the right policy is essential to support our members so they can continue to play their part in tackling climate change. NI legislation needs proper analysis to avoid offshoring our industry and emissions. A short-sighted vote-chasing position is not acceptable and we call on our MLAs to read this report from cover to cover, to come to their senses and realise the damage they will be contributing to should they back this ill-informed net zero target. They need to act in line with the advice they’ve been given to deliver for climate change instead of plucking figures out of a hat that would wipe out the rural economy and destroy rural areas. In short, a PMB is not fit for purpose for something as important as climate change. We need a just transition for all of society, rural voices should not be ignored. It’s time for politicians to start listening to our genuine concerns and working with the agri-food sector and rural communities to deliver climate change legislation that reduces emissions without decimating livelihoods and threatening food security,” said Mr Chestnutt.

Please note:

  • The KPMG report is sponsored by the UFU, LMC, NIMEA, Dairy Council NI, NIGTA and the NI Pork and Bacon Forum.
  • The KPMG report is supported by the NI Poultry Federation, Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association (NIAPA), NI Food & Drink Association (NIFDA), National Sheep Association (NSA) and National Beef Association (NBA).

The full report can be found by clicking here