Yesterday, the Assembly debated a Climate Change Bill for Northern Ireland. Currently, we are the only region in the UK without comparable legislation, so it is important that we cut emissions of greenhouse gases and contribute fairly to the government’s plans to ‘decarbonise’ the economy.
The bill, tabled by agriculture minister Edwin Poots, sets a target of reducing emissions in Northern Ireland by 82% by 2050. This figure was recommended by the government’s Climate Change Committee, which took our specific economic circumstances and the importance of our agriculture sector into account.
Nonetheless, some MLAs argue that the proposed law should set more ambitious goals for Northern Ireland.
The Green Party leader, Clare Bailey, demands that we achieve ‘net zero’ by 2045 and other parties believe we could reach that level by 2050. That means that we would remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as we produce.
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There were farcical scenes at Stormont yesterday, as some MLAs missed the start of the debate because they were attending a climate change protest outside the building. A cynic might suggest that politicians are often more focussed on being seen to protect the environment than actually doing something practical about it.
While Northern Ireland should certainly do its bit to combat climate change, we are a small province with a fragile economy and our plans must be coordinated with national and international efforts.
It is, of course, vitally important that we safeguard our planet for future generations, but we must be realistic about what we can achieve on our own.
Going too far, too fast would have a negligible effect on carbon levels globally, but it could easily decimate many people’s livelihoods.
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