Belfast Telegraph

Stormont stalemate 'hampering attempts fight climate change'

Warning: Lord Deben
Warning: Lord Deben

By Fergus Horsfall

The collapse of Stormont makes it harder for Northern Ireland to deal with climate change, an expert has warned.

Lord Deben was speaking as a report claimed the UK should phase out greenhouse gas emissions and stop contributing to global warming by 2050.

The Government pledged to consider the advice, which the Committee on Climate Change, headed by Lord Deben, said was possible because of falls in the cost of renewable energy.

The report called for urgent policy changes, especially regarding land use, heating systems and carbon-capture technology.

It said that current guidelines would not deliver on the existing, less ambitious targets for a reduction in emissions.

However, key methods of lowering emissions are already in development, including low-carbon electricity, efficient buildings, electric vehicles, stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill, planting more trees and reducing farm emissions.

Lord Deben said the collapse of powersharing at Stormont made it harder for Northern Ireland to achieve its targets.

"People have begun to understand that this is a scientific certainty," the former Westminster environment secretary and agriculture minister, also known as John Gummer, told the BBC.

"This is what is true: we have got to deal with it. The old arguments have fallen away, so I would hope that when you have an assembly that we will be able to work with it with a much greater degree of co-operation."

Green Party Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey said: "Climate breakdown is the defining issue of our time - we have 11 years before irreversible climate breakdown takes effect.

"However, Northern Ireland is the only devolved administration without its own climate change legislation and emissions targets."

Friends of the Earth said: "What the report reveals is that Northern Ireland is lagging behind much more so than any part of these islands."

DUP MLA Jim Wells, a former local health minister, described global warming as "an environmental catastrophe" but expressed scepticism about emissions targets.

Vegetarian Mr Wells, who has had the party whip withdrawn, said: "To try to make Northern Ireland carbon-neutral by 2050, I just cannot see how that's possible because it would be extremely unpopular.

"Nobody would be prepared to give up meat in Northern Ireland to save the planet - they just wouldn't do it."

In February, Ards and North Down Borough Council became the first local council to declare a climate emergency.

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