Move to introduce Climate Change Bill at Stormont

RSPB Northern Ireland (NI) has welcomed the introduction of a Climate Change Bill at the NI Assembly.

John Martin, RSPB NI Head of Policy and Advocacy commented: “The importance of this landmark legislation cannot be overstated - it should underpin our efforts to act with urgency to address the nature and climate emergency and pave the way to deliver a long-term green recovery in Northern Ireland.

“It is over 10 years since the UK Climate Change Act was passed in which time Northern Ireland has failed to introduce vital climate legislation. RSPB NI welcomes the introduction of this Private Members Bill and looks forward to working with members of the NI Assembly to ensure it sets ambitious Net Zero targets in harmony with nature, and drives radical action to reduce emissions across key sectors including agriculture, transport and energy.”

RSPB NI has been a key driver of the Bill alongside other eNGOs in the NI Climate Coalition. It has presented evidence that shows how the restoration and protection of natural carbon sinks, including peatlands and sea grass, can contribute to climate action and this Bill should recognise the vital role of nature in enabling Northern Ireland to become climate-safe and resilient.

The leading conservation charity highlighted that this is not just a pivotal year for climate and nature in Northern Ireland, but globally as the UK plays host to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this coming November, proceeding the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in October. This crucial legislation gives the Executive an opportunity to deliver against its New Decade New Approach commitments and demonstrate that Northern Ireland can be bold and ambitious in setting climate targets.

John Martin continued:“We would like to thank MLAs from across the parties for supporting this Bill. We will continue to engage with the NI Assembly to contribute to the development of this landmark legislation that can create a safe and sustainable future for people and wildlife in Northern Ireland. As part of its Revive Our World campaign, RSPB NI is pushing for legally binding targets to restore nature by 2030 and a green recovery from Covid-19.”

Stormont agriculture committee chair Declan McAleer MLA has also welcomed the introduction of the Private Member’s Climate Action Bill.

He said there is a responsibility on Westminster to support local farmers in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in order to meet climate change targets.

McAleer continued: “At long last this region is moving towards our own Climate Change Act in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement and the New Decade New Approach commitments.  

It is regrettable that we are the only part of these islands that has not got a Climate Change Act.

“I believe this sends out a wrong and misleading message about our commitment to sustainable agriculture practises, when in fact this region has a world beating record of safe, traceable, sustainable and environmentally friendly food production.

“In recent weeks, I have participated in meetings with the UK Climate Change Committee, DAERA and the Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy Committee on this subject.   I made the case that as a region of 1.8 million people we produce enough food for over 10 million people each year, which is in stark contrast to Britain which is only 58% self-sufficient.  

McAleer went on to point out that the local farming and food sectors export a huge amount of food to Britain.

He said:“In the context of Climate Act targets, Westminster has a duty to support our farm businesses reduce their carbon emissions through a just transition.  We need to reduce emissions while not diminishing our food producing capacity which is worth £5 billion per year to the local economy.”