Stormont MLAs agree to climate bill zero emissions amendment

MLAs have voted to set a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 for Northern Ireland in the Climate Change Bill.

By Rebecca Black, PA
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 10:10 pm
Farmers from across Northern Ireland protesting today to urge politicians to reject attempts to toughen up proposed climate change laws.

The Ulster Farmers Union and agri-food business groups are calling on Stormont's elected representatives to back proposed legislation that would seek to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 82% by 2050. Photo by Jonathan Porter // Press Eye
Farmers from across Northern Ireland protesting today to urge politicians to reject attempts to toughen up proposed climate change laws. The Ulster Farmers Union and agri-food business groups are calling on Stormont's elected representatives to back proposed legislation that would seek to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 82% by 2050. Photo by Jonathan Porter // Press Eye

An amendment by the Green Party NI was passed by a vote of 50 to 38 tonight, increasing the reduction target from 82% to 100%.

Party leader Clare Bailey said the move means Northern Ireland will “no longer be the only region in these islands without a net-zero emissions target”.

She added: “The passage of this Green Party NI amendment has significantly increased the ambition of the Climate Change (No.2) Bill, and is an important step towards ensuring we have strong and robust climate legislation.

“Following this clear expression of the will of the Assembly, I hope that we will now see this net-zero climate legislation come into force in the coming months.”

She called on the Assembly to back other amendments to the Bill, including a ‘just transition fund’ for agriculture.

Earlier, MLAs heard there was a “degree of absurdity” in the consideration of two separate climate change Bills at Stormont.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Ms Bailey both proposed Bills which are being progressed in the final weeks of the Assembly term before the institutions are dissolved for fresh elections.

NI is currently the only part of the UK which does not have its own climate legislation, however UK-wide targets do apply to the region.

Mr Poots’ bill, backed by the agrifood industry, proposed an aim to be 82% carbon neutral by 2050, but has been criticised by environmentalists as not going far enough.

Ms Bailey’s Bill went further, proposing a 2045 target for reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

Today, MLAs started debating some 80 amendments which have been proposed to Mr Poots’ Bill in discussions which appeared likely to required another day to consider.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said his party has been encouraging those behind both bills to come closer together: “To many people outside, there is a degree of absurdity that the Northern Ireland Assembly is indeed debating two climate change Bills when in fact what we should be doing is debating one climate emergency Bill because that is the situation we’re in.”

However he said they will back Mr Poots’ proposed target to be 82% carbon neutral by 2050 after “listening to the farming community”, describing it as “realistic”.

Alliance MLA John Blair said his party will back amendments for a target of net-zero by 2050. SF and the SDLP were also expected to back tougher amendments.

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Editor