| 15.1°C Belfast

DUP's Poots says there is a 'climate crisis' after 'department error' briefing paper

Edwin Poots

DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said there is a climate crisis and he will make "significant" changes and be an "achiever" on tackling the issue.

It comes after the permanent secretary in his department apologised for a remark in a briefing paper which led the minister to state his officials did not accept the terminology of "climate crisis or climate emergency".

Denis McMahon told Stormont's Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee: "We got it wrong."

He added: "It is always important to acknowledge errors quickly and comprehensively".

He said the minister had made it clear of the need to follow scientific advice.

The civil servant explained that in a briefing paper, a line said language such as "emergency and crisis" should no be used. He said the paper should have made clear the words were included to reflect the minister's position and did not "constitute official advice".

"This line was included without any additional explanation and caveat, and the minister assumed that it was a position of officials. He subsequently gave this view in a media interview," he added.

"Officials had included the line believing that it was consistent with the minister's policy position in previous statements."

He added: "In this case I fully acknowledge we need to look at our processes to avoid this happening again and I take full responsibility and apologise for that personally, basically we got it wrong."

He said officials had been advised any statement they provide for the minister was to be treated as official advice and not include policy positions unless approved by the minister. He also apologised to the committee and "anybody with an interest" on the issue for the confusion caused.

"This was an error, and I apologise to the minister for that error or for any embarrassment, that had caused."

The minister made his original comments in an interview after the Assembly passed a motion calling for the introduction of a Climate Change Act, with carbon reduction targets, within three months.

During the debate Mr Poots said it was "ludicrous" to suggest such legislation could be drafted in three months and rejected the use of the terms "emergency" or "crisis" when it came to the climate change issue.

On Thursday, Mr Poots was asked about his thoughts on climate crisis and climate change.

"You judge people by their actions and my previous experience as environment minister I made significant change and in my current position I am developing policy that will make significant change to tackle the issue at hand," he told the BBC.

"That is the measure of the individual, not people jumping up and down about terminology.

"Yes there is a climate crisis."

Asked if there was a need for a climate act, he added: "We need to do things which change how we currently do things so we need to take significant actions to make that change and I will lead on taking those significant actions.

"So others can jump up and down on the sidelines and not actually achieve very much and I will be an achiever."

Earlier this year Mr Poots pledged to plant 1million trees in order to tackle climate change.

Belfast Telegraph