Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today welcomed the agri-food industry efforts to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
The Minister was a keynote speaker at a major conference on ‘Carbon and the Food Industry’ held at the Environment and Renewable Energy Centre at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Hillsborough.
Around 100 senior representatives from farming and food processing attended the one-day conference featuring expert speakers on carbon footprinting and greenhouse gas generation within the farming and food processing sectors. The conference was organised by Invest NI for the Industry Advisory Panel (IAP), formed last year to enable the agri-food industry to advise departments on public policy and support for the industry.
Arlene Foster said: “Carbon is one of the greatest challenges facing agri-food, our biggest industry and a leading manufacturer with substantial export business. It is vitally important to the local economy therefore that the industry continues to ensure its competitiveness particularly in markets outside Northern Ireland by addressing issues such as carbon.
“Addressing the issue of greenhouse gases is now a priority for all sectors of an industry increasingly facing demands from customers, consumers and Government to measure and reduce emissions effectively. Currently farming contributes around 21% of Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gases. The scale of emissions and intensity of production systems in agriculture relative to other industries is high.
“This, combined with pressure on food processors from retailers to meet their corporate aims of reduced carbon, makes the reduction of emissions across the whole sector essential.”
The Minister stressed the need for government and industry to continue to work together to achieve reductions in carbon emissions.
She said: “I welcome IAP’s decision to focus resources and to work alongside the Northern Ireland Executive on meaningful actions in this area for both primary processors and food manufacturing businesses. The UK has binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy, and I want Northern Ireland to be in the forefront of initiatives to tackle the issue.
“As this conference shows, Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry is aware of the pressures on it to reduce its carbon footprint and is keen to tackle the issue effectively and as a priority issue. I am confident that this conference will act as a catalyst for the industry and will be a key step leading to a series of actions to improve environmental performance as well as enhancing the overall competitiveness of our food production industry.
“My department and our colleagues in the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department for the Environment and Invest NI will continue to work closely with the industry and help to ensure its continued success. We will also benefit substantially from the expertise readily available at AFBI in our combined efforts.”
Other keynote speakers at the conference included Dr John Gilliland, Industry Advisory Panel Member and Chair of the Rural Climate Change Forum, Dr Conrad Ferris, AFBI, Brendan Forde, Climate Change Unit, Department for the Environment, Dr Sinclair Mayne, DARD Departmental Scientific Advisor, and Nigel McClelland, Manager of Sustainable Development Team, invest NI.
Business speakers included Des Lamph, franchisee, McDonalds Northern Ireland, Fergus McReynolds, Dairy UK, and Richard Moore, Linden Foods. The conference also heard presentations from Andie Stephens, Carbon Trust, and Nick Cooper of Natural England.
The issues covered included Measuring Greenhouse Gases – Evidence and Gaps, the Northern Ireland Government response to climate change, current initiatives by the local agri-food industry, and how to undertake product carbon footprinting.
Attendees were also able to visit AFBI’s state-of-the-art research facilities for measuring emissions and renewable energy work including a new anaerobic digester, biomass boiler, and combined heat and power (CHP) unit, and to see AFBI’s work on biomass crops.