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Environment Minister: Climate change is a ruse to push draconian policies and high taxes

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson
Keen motorcyclist Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson DUP with one of his motorcycles

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has claimed the Labour Government is using climate change to push through draconian policies and high taxes.

Sammy Wilson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, ridiculed ideas such as a carbon credit card and other moves focusing on emissions.

He clashed with Whitehall earlier this year after objecting to a climate change advert from London which mentioned carbon.

He said: "I can understand why it is important that the message be gotten over by a government which has now so many policies, so many intrusive policies.

"I can understand why they want to get the subliminal message over. That's the only way the Government is going to succeed in getting people to accept the draconian increases."

He said these increases included taxation and challenges to people's ability to travel.

Mr Wilson was appearing before the Stormont Environment Committee which recently passed a vote of no confidence in him over the climate change adverts row.

He dismissed part of it as "insidious" government propaganda and questioned the idea that turning off a light could save the world.

In 2006 then environment secretary David Miliband suggested carbon credit cards could be issued as part of a nationwide carbon rationing scheme.

An annual allowance would be allocated, with the card being swiped on various items such as travel, energy or food.

Mr Miliband said people who used less than their allowance could sell any surplus to those who wanted more.

Mr Wilson alleged: "Those are the kind of policies which are being put forward to get people to accept that, then you have got to persuade them that there's some drastic things coming down the road."

The minister has faced criticism from environmental groups and members of the committee.

However, the Democratic Unionist Assembly member for East Antrim put in a pugilistic performance today in defending his attitude to the climate change adverts.

He added: "When a minister from Westminster says it doesn't matter what the view of the devolved administrations across the UK are, we have decided on this, we are not even prepared to enter into a discussion ... I think I was probably standing up for the rights of the devolved administration."

He said he believed in improving energy efficiency because it made "common sense" to do so and dismissed any calls for him to go.

"I have done the job to the best of my ability, I have done it diligently. Do I always get it right? Probably not, because I am not infallible.

"If it came to votes of no confidence I can dispense with them because if I thought I was not doing my job right I would resign."

The minister alleged some of the global warming doomsayers had been the most vociferous in the past, "wanting to spray glaciers black" to ward off an ice age, despite the industrial revolution.

He was involved in clashes with Ulster Unionist Assembly member David McClarty who cited the recent arrival in Britain of a Catholic bishop who questioned the truth of the Holocaust after being asked to leave Argentina. He said Mr Wilson's views were also "abhorrent" to some people here.

The minister said there was no comparison between the reality of the dead bodies of the Holocaust and the "theory" of climate change amid claims in the committee that Mr McClarty's intervention was inappropriate.

UUP committee member Roy Beggs accused him of seeking scientific backing from an American institute partly funded by the oil industry.

But Mr Wilson said it was a small percentage of support and claimed many scientists expressing concern had links with environmentalists.

There have been warnings of catastrophic flooding and large areas of the planet turned into desert if the rate of global warming is not checked.

Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay said: "I think the environmental sector has no confidence in the minister, the general public has no confidence, his Executive colleagues and even members of his own party have no confidence in him."

Mr Wilson had calculated the carbon footprint of many of his critics on the committee.

He said Mr McClarty circumnavigated the world on Assembly business and added that a perfectly good train service from his East Londonderry constituency to Belfast could significantly reduce the amount of carbon he was responsible for.

Mr Wilson levelled similar points at other committee members but neglected to produce figures for his own travel.

He had just stepped off a plane from Westminster, where he is MP for East Antrim. Mr McKay said Sinn Fein was doing its part to cut down on unnecessary travel by discouraging its MPs from attending.

Meanwhile, an AA survey of 15,806 drivers said more than half of drivers over-estimated their vehicle's contribution to global warming.

The AA claimed this made them an "easy target" for punitive council green schemes.

It said road transport accounted for approximately a fifth of emissions, industry a third, and domestic users a quarter.

AA president Edmund King said: "Our research also shows that motorists do consider fuel efficiency when buying a car. However, there seems to be a 'green' bandwagon that more councils are jumping on to penalise drivers for parking charges based on their cars' CO2 emissions.

"In reality, this is a green smokescreen to raise revenue which will do little to help the environment.

"The AA Charitable Trust is encouraging eco-driving by offering free driver training and perhaps councils should be promoting such initiatives rather than penalising families who own larger vehicles."

Northern Ireland Green Party European election candidate Steven Agnew said the minister was defying substantial evidence and world opinion.

"The minister is saying that saving energy is only an issue for the poor and that the wealthy can keep wasting energy if they can afford to. This is a foolish and dangerous suggestion.

"1,918 people have signed our 'fire Sammy Wilson' petition, which indicates how dissatisfied people are with our minister of environment."

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