Green campaigners say climate change sceptic Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has been isolated by his DUP colleagues after the party supported the UK Climate Change Bill in a Westminster debate.
Friends of the Earth welcomed the DUP’s support for the Bill, which is shared by all parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
DUP MP for South Antrim, William McCrea, told the Commons that his party accepted that climate change is a serious environmental threat that requires action.
“We have to tackle carbon emissions and it is therefore important that there is an appropriate Bill to do that. Although I have a very sceptical colleague sitting beside me, our party’s policy is that the Bill is necessary,” he said.
“However, I do not accept that we can say with authority that man is the sole contributor to the situation. There are those who have over-egged the case and in many ways destroyed the argument, and that has made many people in the community cynical. There are also those who have underestimated the case and they have not helped the debate either.
“I believe that global warming is a reality. Scientists have a certain view of the issue; in this House we need to take a balanced view and try to deal with it in a balanced way.”
Dr McCrea warned that there needs to be equity in the actions taken across Europe so that businesses such as Belfast International Airport don’t lose out to competitors across the border. And he warned that Northern Ireland people have few alternatives to the car.
“In Northern Ireland, over many years, the trains were removed — most of Northern Ireland is not served by train — and the timing, frequency and availability of buses is not as in other regions of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“If we take people out of cars to deal with the issue, what will they use? A horse and trap? Bicycles? We have to deal with reality, rather than go back into history.”
John Woods, Northern Ireland Director of Friends of the Earth, said: “It was good to hear strong DUP support for the Bill, a position they have in common with all the parties in the Assembly.
“That Sammy Wilson had to be given special dispensation for his views would be amusing if it were not for the fact that he is our Environment Minister and responsible for policy on climate change.
“Sammy Wilson should either fall into line with the Assembly's support for action to cut greenhouse gas emissions or return to the back benches.”
The DUP said it supported the Climate Change Bill because it accepted the need to take action to safeguard and secure the environment for future generations.