Steven Agnew: The many benefits of going green
It will come as no surprise that environmental sustainability is a core principle for the Green Party. However, economic development and social justice are also inextricably linked.
Our economy will not survive if the environment is not protected. The economic structure, performance and competitiveness of Northern Ireland will be irrelevant if the global climate warms just a few degrees. The short-term economic impact of climate adaptation cannot be used as an excuse for not acting.
Following the Assembly debate on introducing a climate Bill here, it was disappointing but not surprising that colleagues from the DUP, UUP and TUV voted against the motion.
Some find it hard to grasp that the global climate is changing with potentially catastrophic effects. Yet, I doubt that leaders from 147 nations would take time out to address the Paris climate talks if it wasn't important.
The negotiators from 195 countries, I am sure, believe it is essential to reach a deal on reducing global carbon emissions. Indeed, no scientific body of national standing disputes climate change.
We need to play our part. The Assembly has for the second time agreed that Northern Ireland needs a climate Bill. It's now time to bring it forward.
A move to low-carbon emissions would have a positive impact on our economy. Although, as with most things, there would be an upfront cost, there would be many benefits of transforming to a low-carbon society.
Reducing energy consumption and increasing domestic energy production from renewables reduces reliance on fossil fuel. Onshore wind energy is cheaper to produce than fossil fuel energy. This would impact on energy bills.
As for social justice, what if it is all a hoax and we make the world a better place for nothing? What if we insulate housing stock and prevent more people dying here because of winter-related deaths than in Finland, where temperatures are much colder? And what if we switch from fossil fuels and reduce the 500 deaths a year caused by air pollution?
Why would the Executive not want to make social justice and long-term economic sustainability a priority?
- Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland