Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots £1b net-zero claim 'thoroughly discredited' says Claire Bailey

Agriculture and Enviroment Minister Edwin Poots. Picture by Stephen Davison

EDWIN Poots's claim that carbon reduction targets in Clare Bailey's climate change bill would cost the north an extra £1 billion a year have been "thoroughly discredited", the Green Party leader has claimed.

Ms Bailey's remarks came after Stormont's agriculture and environment committee yesterday received a briefing paper from the assembly's Research and Information Service evaluating the cost difference from implementing the assembly's two competing climate bills.

Ms Bailey's private member's bill, which has the support of a majority of parties, seeks to move the north to net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Mr Poots' bill has a less ambitious target of 82 per cent, linked to a UK-wide net zero target by 2050.

Efforts to strike a compromise have so far failed. As reported by The Irish News last week, the minister has said that he would prefer the north has no climate legislation if it meant Stormont implementing the Green leader's bill.

Mr Poots has claimed that as well as threatening thousands of jobs, "the cost if we went down Clare Bailey's route would add an additional £1bn a year".

He cited the figure in a radio interview with the BBC last month, which is understood to be based on information provided by the Committee for Climate Change (CCC), a British government advisory body, which according to Mr Poots has previously stated that it was possible that the difference could be "up to £900m by 2050".

The paper presented to MLAs yesterday, which is based on further correspondence with the CCC, notes that the projection was preceded by the caveat that the advisory body was not "able precisely to calculate the costs" of the north reaching net-zero.

It goes on to say "the additional £900m per year would not apply in every year between now and 2050" and in fact relates to the cost of moving from Mr Poots' 82 per cent target to net zero.

Ms Bailey said she wasn't surprised.

“Minister Poots’s claim that a net-zero target will cost Northern Ireland £1bn a year has now been thoroughly discredited by independent research presented to the agriculture and environment committee this week," she said.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey. Picture by Hugh Russell

"The reality is that the financial costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of reaching net-zero."

The Green leader added that her bill "has retained its widespread political and civic support and remains on track to become law".

Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan claimed Mr Poots had been "making outlandish comments on the cost of dealing with the climate emergency".

"He went from initially denying the climate emergency, to dragging his feet in carrying out his responsibilities to bring forward legislation. When others did produce legislation the minister resorted to tactics of scaremongering about its impact," he said.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said the Stormont committee needed to consider graduated year-by-year cost estimates provided by the CCC, while Alliance's John Blair said the costs of not acting on climate change needed to be factored in, as well as investment opportunities arising from carbon reduction.

Mr Poots' department has yet to respond.

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