Stormont’s environment minister has denied he is dragging his heels on developing climate change legislation for Northern Ireland.
Edwin Poots said his department officials were scoping options for a Climate Change Act for the region.
He said he had also sought advice from the independent UK Climate Change Committee.
During Assembly question time, Mr Poots was challenged by Sinn Fein MLA Sinead Ennis to explain why the region still did not have specific legislation to drive carbon reduction targets.
“I can assure you there is no heel dragging taking place within my department,” he replied.
“We’re working on actions as opposed to acts.
“Actions actually deliver things; acts put a form of words in place.
“So action speaks louder than words always.”
Mr Poots said there was a need to fully understand the “unique characteristics of the make-up of Northern Ireland emissions and determine what is our equitable contribution to net zero”.
“That is why I’ve written to independent experts UK Climate Change Committee for advice on what would be our equitable contribution to the UK’s net zero emissions target to ensure our emissions reduction targets are credible and evidence based,” he added.
“Unfortunately, the CCC are not in a position to respond to my request until after they have provided advice on the UK’s sixth carbon budget, which will be published in December 2020.
“In the interim, my officials have commenced work on scoping the options for the introduction of a Northern Ireland Climate Change Bill and I’ll consider these options, along with the advice provided from CCC, and I will present my findings to the Northern Ireland Executive to agree a way forward.”
Mr Poots added: “In terms of producing a bill, one will want to have the best and the most credible evidence that is available to them.
“So we’re doing courses of work in conjunction with gathering that evidence.
“The bill will not be what delivers real and significant change.
“It’ll be the actions that flow from it or indeed the actions that we can do prior to developing any bill.
“So what is important is actually our actions, as opposed to the legislation.
“And I can assure you that my department is working extensively on what actions they can do to reduce the carbon footprint that we have here in Northern Ireland and make a significant contribution to ensuring that Northern Ireland’s effort in terms of reaching ‘net zero’ will be something which is significant.”