Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland has role to play in tackling climate change

By Steven Agnew

Always wary of disappearing into the ‘Stormont bubble’ I like to try to take a look around every once in a while and see what’s going on in the world.

As interesting as the internal wrangling of the DUP is, in week when the UK government has once again decided to go to war in Iraq, this was nothing more than a distraction. In her statement against going to war my colleague Caroline Lucas MP argued that “killing people rarely kills their ideas”. I couldn’t agree more.

While there is little that we can do in the Assembly to solve the various crises in the Middle East, there is something we can do about another issue of major international importance; climate change.

Last week, global leaders from governments, finance, business and civil society converged at the United Nation’s New York HQ to discuss the climate change crisis. Hundreds of thousands of citizens also took to the streets of capital cities across the world in marches to urge those leaders to take the issue of climate change seriously.

There is general agreement by the IPCC, the United Nations and the European Union that global temperatures must not rise by more than 2ºC by 2050 if we are to avoid irreversible global warming and the consequences that would bring.

If the rise in global warming is not kept below 2ºC the potential results are 228 million people at risk from malaria, 20 million people at risk from coastal flooding, 12 million people at risk from hunger as crop yields fail, 2,240 million people at risk from water shortages, serious drought in Europe and extinction of up to a third of land-based species.

The issue of climate change goes beyond a bit of irregular weather.

Northern Ireland has a responsibility to be part of the solution to a problem which is already affecting the lives of millions of people.

The Stormont Executive has yet to produce a Northern Ireland Climate Change Bill, which would commit us to legal targets for greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation.

Such an act would give a clear signal to both the private and public sectors about the direction of long-term government policy, provide greater certainty for future investment decisions and promote a green economy.

Regulation can drive innovation and legislation can act as a spur to kickstart renewable energy solutions, as well as other initiatives to tackle climate change.

A non-legislative approach may ultimately have a detrimental impact on, or result in, Northern Ireland losing opportunities that may accrue from the transition to a low carbon economy.

Increasingly, there are economic benefits of moving to low carbon living.

We have the opportunity to develop local industries which would create jobs in a sustainable economy. Historically, innovative engineering and developing scientific solutions are fields we excel at in Northern Ireland.

The Green Party has always advocated that we think global and act local because in seeking to save the planet, we can also help ourselves.

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