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Sack Sammy call after climate change ad ban

Environmentalists called today for the sacking of a Northern Ireland Cabinet minister after he banned an advertising campaign on climate change.

Stormont environment minister Sammy Wilson, who believes mankind is not to blame for global warming, blocked TV and radio ads urging people to reduce their carbon output and use less energy in the home.

The Green party has now tabled a motion in the assembly demanding his removal from office while the SDLP has called on the executive to re-examine his decision.

But the Democratic Unionist East Antrim representative today stood by his decision, claiming the adverts were 'propaganda'.

The Act on CO2 campaign was produced by the Westminster government but as devolved minister Mr Wilson has the authority to prohibit it being run in Northern Ireland.

The Green party's sole representative in the region's Assembly Brian Wilson accused Mr Wilson of being irresponsible.

"While the minister is entitled to his own views, he is not entitled to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that man made climate change exists," said the North Down member.

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"He is being grossly irresponsible in refusing to encourage energy efficiency and ignoring the benefits that it can help in reducing the costs to many poorer families."

Meanwhile, SDLP environment spokesman Tommy Gallagher said: "This is personal political sabotage of an important public awareness campaign.

"A minister who wants to use devolution powers to censor public service advertisements would be wise to seek consensus in the Assembly.

"This is grandstanding on an extreme and dangerous scale. We need all the awareness campaigns we can get on this issue, and in particular we need to ensure that efforts to combat climate change do not become victims of the downturn. The Minister must be held accountable for his maverick posturing."

But Mr Wilson rejected the criticism and pointed out that the Scottish executive had also stopped the ads being broadcast.

He said the adverts suggested that by switching off a standby light on their TV people could save the world.

"That is patent nonsense," he said.

The campaign was developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in Whitehall.

While the DUP has made manifesto claims to tackle carbon emissions, Mr Wilson has remained an outspoken sceptic of the view that humans can influence the climate.

Instead, he believes the recent temperature changes are nothing different to the global weather shifts that have occurred over millions of years.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said it had only shelved the advertising campaign because it had its own, locally made, adverts.

John Woods, from Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland, said Mr Wilson was completely irresponsible.

"The reality is that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that our activities are causing global warming and that urgent action is needed to tackle it," he said.

"Reducing energy waste will not only slash emissions - it will also cut fuel bills, tackle fuel poverty and reduce our reliance on the yo-yoing cost of fossil fuels.

"Mr Wilson's antics do not reflect well on First Minister Peter Robinson's judgment and have become an embarrassment to Northern Ireland. We urgently need someone in post that will take this job seriously."

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