Increased energy costs because of climate change are a major cause of concern in Northern Ireland, a survey has revealed.
Around 58 per cent of those asked raised the issue with the Department of Environment. Other worries included an increase in the amount of severe weather, more frequent flooding, a polluted atmosphere and rising food costs.
There was a decrease in those who believed human activity alone was the main cause of climate change, from 22% in 2009 to 17% this year.
Richard Murphy, head of energy practice at law firm Pinsent Masons in Belfast, said: “It is interesting that the public at large are concerned about energy costs as there is a significant potential impact on the local economy.
“We have had conversations with our clients and with Arlene Foster (Enterprise Minister) about the importance of energy costs to Northern Ireland businesses.
“There is an environmental and economic imperative to decarbonise the local economy, but it has to be done in such a way that energy costs do not hamper local businesses.”
Of those who believed in climate change, half were concerned about the possible impact for Northern Ireland, a decrease since 2009 when 57 per cent were worried.
The sample for last January’s survey included 1,141 participants.
Mr Murphy added: “If people understand the arguments around climate change and the significance for our future energy policy, there is likely to be a more informed debate around - for instance - the expeditious development of wind farms.
“Far too often things like these can get caught up in lengthy planning disputes, when there is a need for action sooner rather than later.
“It also helps to be able to talk to potential investors in Northern Ireland about public sentiment. If a developer feels they are going to face less opposition to renewables development in NI versus, say, Scotland, that gives us an advantage in attracting investment and creating jobs.”