Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Examination of the Third Report of the Citizens' Assembly (Resumed)

12:00 pm

Photo of Ian MarshallIan Marshall (Independent)
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Lord Deben has made continual references to science policy and its importance. His last point was very interesting. I listened to a BBC Radio 4 interview with a German farmer who was asked why wind turbines and wind generation were considered more successful in Germany than they were in the UK or Ireland. He made the point that when he looked out of his kitchen window, the turbine he saw was his turbine and did not belong to someone else.

Agriculture and transport are portrayed as the big villains in the area of climate change, but we often forget the potential solutions that agriculture can present as we attempt to mitigate its effects. We need to take a holistic approach to this, because there is no magic bullet which will solve all of our problems. I farm in Northern Ireland and work in Queen's University Belfast in the Institute for Global Food Security, which was born as a result of food fraud and the horsemeat scandal in the UK and a concern over the integrity of food and food security issues. We spend our time looking at agriculture, food, health and nutrition. We look at issues such as food waste, the carbon footprint of agriculture and food integrity. The reality is that there are more people dying in the world from obesity than starvation at the moment, which is obscene. Everything we look at is underpinned with science. We substantiate and validate our findings.

I was interested to hear Lord Deben discussing fracking. He has an interesting perspective. From my own experience in Northern Ireland, the UK and Dublin, and thinking about the role and function of governments, the fact that politicians have a four or five-year term, from election to election, jumps out at me. One has to make an impact, make a difference and be seen to be doing the right things if one wants to be re-elected. My concern is that, in the court of public opinion and in the media, we can sometimes make knee-jerk decisions that are reactions to pressure which will have an impact in ten, 20 or 30 years which may be unintended. Given that, I would like to hear Lord Deben's opinion on the status of evidence-based policymaking. In my opinion, governments need the support of evidence-based policymaking which is underpinned with science and fact rather than sentiment and emotion or based on what is popular at a particular time. We look at the mitigation and adaptation objectives, strategies used and land use policy, and it is critically important that we base our findings on facts. Where does Lord Deben stand on that point?

On Lord Deben's point about Michael Gove's report on waste, released yesterday, we are working with a UK-based company which is focused on accelerated aerobic digestion. In 24 hours, food waste can be turned into a product that will power a CHP plant and produce heat and electricity. Science can offer solutions and answers to some of these problems. I am interested in Lord Deben's opinion on government policy and evidence based policy.