Environment Minister pushing Stormont to embrace climate change laws

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan

An on-going failure to enact climate change laws in Northern Ireland is an embarrassment to Stormont, the Environment minister has claimed.

Mark H Durkan said the region’s status as the only part of the UK and Ireland not to have legislated to tackle the issue was regrettable.

Mr Durkan said he hoped renewed publicity prompted by this month’s UN conference on climate change in Paris would inject fresh impetus into efforts to get political consensus on potential laws in Northern Ireland.

But the minister admitted a Climate Change Bill, with potential binding limits on emission production, would not be forthcoming before the end of the current Assembly term next spring.

“Realistically we are not going to see the introduction of climate change (legislation) in or within this mandate and that is something that causes me regret,” he said during Assembly question time.

“As I have said, over the past two years I have been attempting to build consensus. I believe we are making slow but steady progress in that regard.

“I think the topicality of this issue and the huge media attention that has been afforded to the on-going conference in Paris on the issue of climate change is something we can work to our advantage here.

“The fact we are the only jurisdiction on these islands that doesn’t have its own climate change legislation is something that causes me, as minister, a degree of embarrassment but it is something that should cause us all collectively, as a devolved Assembly, a great deal of embarrassment.

“It’s something we do need to show leadership on.”

Mr Durkan has drawn up a “high level discussion paper” on the potential shape of a Climate Change Bill for consideration by ministerial colleagues and other stakeholders.

He said compromise would be needed to get an agreement over the line.