Senior DUP member Sammy Wilson is the Province’s most outspoken climate change critic – but now the party’s chief whip has publicly disagreed with him on the issue.
Mr Wilson, who has said that it is a “con” to state that human activity is upsetting weather patterns, used a Monday night Assembly debate to again warn against green taxes.
The former finance minister said that “we are already paying through the nose for electricity because we go down the route of the dearest electricity possible through renewable energy” and are “putting our agricultural industry in jeopardy because there is no greater producer of greenhouse gases than cows”.
But fellow DUP MLA Pam Cameron said of an Alliance Party motion being discussed: “I am content to support the overall intention of the motion,” adding that she was “reasonably sure that the overall weather trends we are experiencing are not unrelated to a legacy of failing to protect our environment”.
And, in a reference to Mr Wilson, DUP chief whip Peter Weir said: “I will make an admission that, I suspect, may incur a certain level of wrath from somebody to my right.
“I believe that climate change is happening and that, on balance, the evidence shows that it may also be the case that a large element of that is man-made.”
However, Mr Weir said that a Climate Change Act – as proposed by Green party leader Steven Agnew – would “act as a straitjacket to our industry and to our farming community and would potentially be very damaging to Northern Ireland”.
Mr Wilson did get some support from TUV leader Jim Allister who slammed the “dogma, nay the religion, of man-made climate change”.
But SDLP MLA Alban Maginness was less supportive.
At one point he refused to take an intervention from Mr Wilson, telling him: “No. I have heard everything that you – I mean, you are just a flat-earther. It is as simple as that.”
Mr Agnew’s call for a Climate Change Act was passed by the Assembly despite DUP opposition.
However, the party could veto an act coming into force if legislation was brought forward to do so.
Mr Agnew said: “Human action has caused climate change, but political inaction is responsible for the flooding that our communities have suffered.”
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “The latest UK climate projections indicate that we are likely to experience warmer but wetter winters, coupled with increased frequency of extreme weather occurrences, such as heavy rain and flooding.”