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Stormont in vote for tougher action on climate change

By Noel McAdam

Published 02/12/2015

Green Party leader and MLA Steven Agnew pleaded with the Executive not to miss the opportunity of bringing forward legislation specific to the province
Green Party leader and MLA Steven Agnew pleaded with the Executive not to miss the opportunity of bringing forward legislation specific to the province

Stormont has narrowly backed tougher and more immediate action on climate change in the province as an international conference in Paris to tackle the global crisis goes on.

On a close vote of 46 in favour and 43 against, MLAs said a Climate Bill for Northern Ireland should include "legally binding, long-term and interim targets" on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The slim majority accepted a Green Party amendment to the main motion from Alliance's Anna Lo, chair of the Assembly's environment committee, for the Executive to extend the 2008 Climate Change act to NI.

Their call came as Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, of the SDLP, prepared to fly out to join the Paris negotiations, which saw the largest-ever gathering of world leaders - 151 in total - on Monday.

Green Party leader and MLA Steven Agnew pleaded with the Executive not to miss the opportunity of bringing forward legislation specific to the province.

"Climate change has been discussed for decades now, but with each passing year the situation becomes more grave," Mr Agnew argued.

"This month we have had Storm Abigail, Storm Barney and Storm Clodagh.

"It is undoubted that freak weather events, as they were once called, are increasingly becoming commonplace, and we are seeing the effects here in Northern Ireland.

"It is not just flooding... increasing global food prices can result in farming no longer being sustainable."

The main thread of opposition to a local Climate Bill came from the DUP.

The party's Gordon Lyons argued "there can be an awful lot of scaremongering", which did not benefit Mr Agnew's arguments.

William Irwin said his major concern on methane targets was the potential for added strain and cost on farmers.

And Paul Frew said: "Little Northern Ireland produces 20% of its energy through wind.

"Northern Ireland is punching well above its weight when it comes to the fight against climate change."

The SDLP's Alban Maginness said: "Unfortunately, we do not have the political consensus in this Chamber, the Executive and society at large to bring forward climate change legislation."

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