Belfast Telegraph

Dismay over scrapping of green group

By Linda Stewart

Campaigners have condemned the Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Sustainable Development Commission — claiming it will affect Northern Ireland in particular.

Staff at the SDC in Northern Ireland have urged Stormont to keep them on as independent advisers to help make a transition to a green economy.

Critics claim it may save the Government £3 million a year but is likely to cost the taxpayer more. The SDC’s most recent report identified hundreds of millions of pounds of possible savings that could be made by identifying waste in Government.

Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr said he was incredulous at the decision to scrap the SDC and warned it would be particularly felt in Northern Ireland where progress on implementing sustainable development has been “lamentably slow”.

“If we want Northern Ireland to have a sustainable future we need to keep this independent expert research and advice.”

Jim Kitchen, who heads the SDC in Northern Ireland, urged the Executive to live up to its commitments to sustainable development.

“We are deeply disappointed that the UK Government has decided to withdraw its funding from the Sustainable Development Commission. We believe, however, that there is still much for us to contribute here in Northern Ireland as trusted independent advisers to the Executive,” he said.

Mr Kitchen said this year’s funding is already agreed but the Government is withdrawing funds for next year and subsequent years.

The local branch is funded mostly by the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM) with a supplement from Defra. An OFMDFM spokesman said: “Options for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Commission's functions here are currently under consideration.”

The SDC has been at the heart of the proposed Green New Deal drawn up by unions, the CBI and UFU.

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