Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots' climate legislation branded 'pale imitation' of Stormont-backed private member's bill

Edwin Poots hopes to get his climate bill through the assembly before next May's scheduled election. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PROPOSED climate legislation tabled at the executive by Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots has been described as a "pale imitation" of a more ambitious private member's bill that has the backing of the assembly.

Mr Poots presented his long-awaited proposals to ministerial colleagues on Thursday.

Once officially moved by the minister, it will mean there are two similar bills progressing through an assembly already crowded with legislation and with less than a year remaining of its mandate.

A private member's bill sponsored by Green leader Claire Bailey, which has the support of all the main parties bar the DUP, passed its second assembly stage last month. It commits the region to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Ms Bailey said yesterday that she will "work with anybody who wants to deal with climate breakdown in a meaningful way".

Mr Poots has previously described her proposed legislation as a "Disneyworld bill" that threatens jobs in the agrifood industry.

His department's bill is regarded as less ambitious as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions by 82 per cent by 2050.

The minister has signalled that he hopes to get his bill through the assembly before next May's scheduled election.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who is himself bringing private member's legislation through Westminster that will bring forward the date for achieving a net zero emissions target, while introducing a tax to fund the decarbonisation of the economy, said his party would "seek to amend and fundamentally transform" Mr Poots' bill.

"The legislation that Edwin Poots is bringing to the assembly is a pale imitation of the serious efforts to address the climate crisis being taken forward by other parties," he said.

"This is the biggest challenge our world faces, it's not a time for light touches and pulling punches."

Ms Bailey dubbed the agriculture minister's proposed legislation a "Sleeping Beauty bill" because she said it had taken "so many years for the department to wake up to climate breakdown".

"I look forward to seeing the content of the Daera climate change bill – it's been a long time in the making and all the while Northern Ireland is falling way behind on a raft of important environmental indicators including air quality, water quality and native species numbers," she said.

"The Climate Change Bill for Northern Ireland, the cross-party bill that I am the lead sponsor for, is well advanced and we are taking evidence at present as part of the committee stage of the bill."

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