Over 80% of Northern Ireland’s public bodies have failed to publish a carbon reduction plan, a damning report has revealed.
Of the 69 bodies that signed up to a Government scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, only four have published plans to cut toxic emissions.
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), the Department of the Environment (DoE) and Belfast City Council are just some of the leading organisations on the list of bodies yet to show their commitment to reducing their carbon outputs.
The figures, based on pledges outlined in the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), show that Northern Ireland has the worst carbon footprint in the UK.
Environmental experts have condemned the news as “catastrophic”, making it highly unlikely that the province will meet its targets for reducing carbon emissions in the next decade.
Kevin Houston, director of |consultancy Carbon Masters and author of the report, warned Northern Ireland’s public sector to “catch up before it is too late”.
“Unless these organisations start to put carbon emission reduction strategies in place, particularly those to improve energy efficiency, they will face significant cost increases from both energy and carbon taxes over the next five years,” he said.
“This will impact negatively on their competitiveness as well as the climate.
“Northern Ireland has much higher energy costs than the rest of the UK, so if anyone should be doing anything about carbon reduction, it’s them.”
He added that signing up to the CRC was “worthless” without publishing a plan of concrete measures put in place to reduce emissions.
“Publishing the plans is important because it’s a way of saying ‘we’re doing something and we’re being public about it’,” he said.
“We don’t know if these companies are doing something and just not publishing it, or not doing anything. I suspect that there’s nothing much going on.
“It just doesn’t feel like carbon reduction is at the top of the agenda in Northern Ireland.”
The CRC, which came into force in April 2010, is a mandatory scheme for public bodies with high energy consumption, requiring them to register their gas emissions and purchase allowances to regulate their carbon output.
It aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by at least four million tonnes per year by 2020.
Northern Ireland’s high dependency on oil — a more carbon-intensive energy source — means that companies here are likely to attract higher levels of carbon tax when this comes into force in 2012.
But the report found that just nine per cent of public bodies have acknowledged that carbon reduction is a serious issue.
Only NI Water, the Department for Social Development, Greiner Packaging Ltd and Queen’s University Belfast have published plans to cut their carbon output.