Northern Ireland news

Belfast climate change protesters join global strike

Global climate strike protesters at Cornmarket in Belfast city centre. Picture by Hugh Russell

CLIMATE change protesters in Belfast joined activists across the world today to demand urgent action to limit global warning.

Young people joined other protesters in the city's Cornmarket, including Green Party leader Clare Bailey, to push for measures to limit the warming of the Earth.

According to the 2015 Paris climate accord, global warming should be limited to a maximum of 1.5C.

The strike for climate action, inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, began two years ago.

Today's global climate strike was organised to show the climate emergency is continuing during the Covid pandemic.

Rosalind Skillen (23) was among those who took part in action in Belfast.

She is particularly concerned by pollution caused by the fashion industry.

"I'm really passionate about sustainable fashion and learning about the impact of fast fashion on garment workers and their rights," she said.

"The fashion industry is the second-largest polluting industry. (We need to look at) the amount of clothes that we throw away and where they end up."

The global climate strike protest in Belfast was one of hundreds across the world. Picture by Hugh Russell

The strike comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Ms Skillen said governments have made many pledges but have failed to take concrete action on climate change.

"We haven't seen decisive action," she said.

"No promises are being kept. We are nowhere near reaching targets set by the Paris agreement.

"COP26 isn't about 'we need more pledges, we need more targets'. We just need to stick to the ones that we already have."

Climate protester Rosalind Skillen. Picture from Rosalind Skillen

Ms Skillen is giving a TedX talk on climate change at Stormont on November 4 to coincide with COP26.

"Failure is not an option," she said.

"There's a phrase I always try to use 'hope mobilises, fear paralyses'. It's so true because as soon as we start pointing fingers, especially at former generations, it really disengages people and then they don't make any effort at all.

"It's important to keep everyone on board."

She said Northern Ireland needs "a strong climate bill to hold businesses and corporations to account".

"If we're not measuring (emissions) then we can't control them," she said.

"We're almost two steps behind in that sense."

Northern Ireland has no climate change legislation.

A private member’s bill, brought forward by Green Party leader Clare Bailey, aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the north to zero by 2045.

The agriculture minister, DUP MLA Edwin Poots, has brought forward his own, less ambitious, legislation.

Ms Bailey said her bill must be passed as soon as possible.

"The bill is ambitious because it has to be, Northern Ireland is a climate laggard," she said.

"The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have now declared Code Red for Humanity. The time for talking is done. Now is the time for action."

Meanwhile, Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl met Lord Deben and Chris Stark from the UK’s Climate Change Committee this week to discuss councils' role in tackling climate change.

Ms Nicholl said Belfast City Council is committed to becoming carbon-neutral.

"Local authorities have a major role in driving action within communities and as a council we want to take the lead and set an example to every resident," said the Alliance councillor.

The Climate Change Committee is an independent body and advises the UK and local governments on emissions targets and how to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Kate Nicholl pictured with Lord Deben and Chris Stark from The Climate Change Committee

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