Leading article

Stormont climate change act is urgently needed

The Climate Craic festival staged symbolically in the grounds of the Stormont estate in Belfast yesterday was a significant event which deserved to be resonate with all the elected representatives who sit in the adjoining Parliament Buildings.

Supporters gathered to attend a range of workshops and stalls hosted by environmental groups, as well as listening to guest speakers and live music while addressing questions which are of enormous importance.

A major UN scientific report into climate change, which was published earlier this year, stated firmly that human beings are "unequivocally" to blame for global warming and some trends, including rising sea-levels, cannot be reversed.

It is essential that all sections of society in Ireland, north and south, focus attention on these issues and insist that their elected representatives work constructively towards ensuring that progress can be made in the short term.

Action can be taken on a number of fronts by individual citizens and organised groups which will make a difference but leadership needs to be displayed in many different ways and there will be a strong feeling that in Ireland and across the world we are may be running out of time.

It has been widely noted that the only part of Ireland and the UK which does not have it own climate change act is the area under the jurisdiction of the Stormont executive and this is a priority which is surely capable of being resolved.

Two separate bills are currently proceeding through legislative stages in the Assembly – one a private members' bill from Green Party leader Clare Bailey and the other, a less ambitious measure, put forward by DUP minister Edwin Poots.

Ms Bailey's initiative, supported by a majority of other Stormont parties, was developed by the Climate Coalition NI – which is made up of a range of scientists, academics, lawyers and environmental organisations.

It sets a 2045 target for reaching net zero carbon emissions, and, even if some trade-offs between the two proposals are required, there will be strong hopes that much needed new laws can be confirmed shortly.

Frustratingly, both bills would fall away if the DUP follows through with its recent threat to collapse the power-sharing institutions in protest at the Brexit protocol agreed between the UK and the EU.

This would be an appalling outcome and the provision of appropriate climate control legislation is another compelling reason to keep our devolved structures firmly in place.

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