Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland lagging behind other UK regions in reduction of carbon emissions

More than 800,000 green jobs could be created across the UK by 2030 if local authorities take immediate action to address the climate crisis. Picture from Getty Images

NORTHERN Ireland is lagging far behind other UK regions in the reduction of carbon emissions, according to a new report.

Research by Queen's University Belfast has found that, between 2005 and 2019, the north reduced its carbon emissions by 23 per cent, compared to 56 per cent in the north-east of England.

The average reduction across the UK was 36 per cent.

The north also has the highest domestic emissions in the UK, with each person responsible for 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The research was led by the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action at Queen’s University Belfast and the Place-Based Climate Action Network for UK100.

Researchers looked at the economic benefits of climate action at local authority level.

They found that more than 800,000 green jobs could be created across the UK by 2030, rising to 1.38 million by 2050, if local authorities take immediate action to address the climate crisis.

One in five workers will be affected by the transition to a net zero carbon economy across the UK. Around three million workers will be in high demand whereas another three million will need new training or to improve their skills.

The report highlighted that the estimated annual cost of floods in the UK has reached £340 million, and is expected to rise to £428 million if global temperatures rise by 2°C.

It found that for every £1 invested in climate mitigation and protecting communities from the impact of extreme weather events, including flooding, a further £9 is saved.

And it calculated that if UK businesses reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 instead of 2050, society would escape costs equivalent to £1.1

trillion.

A climate commission for Belfast was established in January 2020.

The city could save £283m a year in 2030 and create more than 700 jobs if the most ambitious carbon reduction policies were implemented, the report found.

A roadmap to net zero carbon for the city highlighted that a large-scale housing insulation programme would not only reduce carbon emissions, but provide hundreds of jobs, increase the disposable income of thousands of households and improve people's quality of life.

Northern Ireland as a whole could save £200,000,000 by 2030 if the energy efficiency of all homes was improved to at least an Energy Performance Certificate C rating.

The measure could also see the creation of 3,100 jobs. However, this would also require an investment of £1,820m, the report calculated.

John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen's University, said the cost of doing nothing is immense.

"It is in the very difficult context of Covid-19 that local authorities must consider the meaningful, lasting and interrelated benefits of decarbonising across all sectors, confronting the climate crisis, and harnessing the economic opportunities of local climate action," he said.

"Fortunately, this economic shift can unlock correspondingly significant social and economic benefits for our society.

"If done correctly, and in the time frame suggested by climate science, we can not only avoid the worst consequences of climate change but capitalise on the huge economic and other co-benefits of urgent transformative climate action at scale.

"Our report clearly shows that ‘building back better’ from the pandemic is to green and climate proof our societies and local economies."

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