Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Why energy must be our top priority

There is no doubt that climate change and energy supply are two of the greatest dangers facing humanity.

Experts around the world are screaming stark warnings that appear to be falling on deaf ears up in Stormont and in the media.

The pace of global warming is increasing and we are undoubtedly beginning to feel its serious impact. The only way we can avoid very abrupt climate change is through immediate reductions in global consumption of energy.

Getting such a change in consumption will require radical policies, courageous political leadership and a strong buy in from the populations of developed countries in particular.

No industrial region is exempt from responsibility. The SDLP is at the forefront in pushing the sustainable energy agenda in the Assembly and Executive. We are determined to continue holding the various government departments to account.

It is clear we can't go on using fossil fuels the way we currently do because burning coal, oil and gas causes global warming.

In Northern Ireland we import 96% of our fuels despite the fact that we live on an island with huge sustainable energy resources. The Republic of Ireland energy organisation, Sustainable Energy Ireland, recently reported that Ireland can produce seven times the amount of electricity it needs through wind power alone.

There are other mature technologies such as tidal and biomass that allow us to harvest natural resources. Any profits from those technologies can remain within our local economy rather than being shipped out to international fuel companies.

Local generation of heat and electricity, by local people, for local people, can and should be the new paradigm in Northern Ireland. The real danger is that if we don't accelerate the development of our renewable resources and improve our energy efficiency, the time will come when the only option is nuclear generation or no generation. I certainly don't want to be faced with that ultimatum — do you?



Dr ALASDAIR McDONNELL MP MLA

Belfast

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