Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots rejects Stormont calls for Climate Change Act within three months

The assembly has backed a motion calling for a Climate Change Act. Picture by John Giles/PA Wire

ENVIRONMENT minister Edwin Poots has dismissed assembly calls to bring forward climate change legislation that includes binding carbon reduction targets within three months.

Despite MLAs' support yesterday for an act that would also see the creation of an independent environmental protection agency, the minister rejected the need for "waste of time regulations".

January's New Decade, New Approach agreement included a commitment to mitigate climate change.

Yesterday's motion, backed by a majority of assembly members, was tabled by the agriculture and environment committee deputy chairman Philip McGuigan and called for "legally binding and ambitious sectoral emission-reduction targets".

But Mr Poots said it was "ridiculous" to call for a comprehensive piece of legislation to be developed in the timeframe put forward.

He said he would not be found wanting when it came to action to protect the environment but rejected the notion that there was a climate "emergency".

"We need greater clarity and evidence on what should go into legislation and what that can deliver for Northern Ireland and without this we have a real risk of rushing through something which we later find out has a detrimental effect and puts up barriers for businesses and industry, debilitating Northern Ireland's realisation of a just transition to a low carbon green economy," he said.

The DUP minister said he would not introduce any laws that had a detrimental impact on the farming sector, which is responsible for the largest proportion of the north's climate-altering emissions.

Mr McGuigan said the assembly had made clear its "overwhelming and urgent desire" for a Climate Change Act.

"We are living through a climate emergency, with disastrous effects on the natural world, biodiversity, our society, and our economy," he said.

“We need a legally-binding Climate Change Act – warm words have not been good enough and the north remains a laggard on climate action."

Alliance environment spokesman John Blair also the world was "facing a climate emergency" but that the assembly had to force the minister to recognise that fact.

"A Climate Change Act must be brought forward – otherwise we face an increase in variable weather and climate patterns, increases in flooding, changes in the natural habitats and biodiversity within these islands, which will only get worse over time," he said.

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