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Editor's Viewpoint

Time for action on electric vehicles



NI has a lack of electric vehicles (John Walton/PA)

NI has a lack of electric vehicles (John Walton/PA)

NI has a lack of electric vehicles (John Walton/PA)

Alongside our dire rail network, Northern Ireland can now add electric vehicles to the list of areas we’re falling short on compared to the rest of the UK.

And, to be honest, I doubt anyone is even surprised by the latest data from the DVLA, which put five NI councils among the bottom 10 local authorities in the UK when it comes to adopting hybrid and electric vehicles.

The fact of the matter is — now more than ever — there is no excuse for this. We are facing a climate emergency, spiralling fuel prices and a cost of living crisis. For years government here has talked big on “going green”, only to fail at almost every turn, whether it be the lack of cycle lanes or our poor public transport network.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) laid the blame on central government, stating that councils here have been waiting for clarity from the Assembly on climate legislation and targets since 2008. However, there has been nothing stopping councils setting their own targets or pushing their own climate initiatives. Indeed, Belfast City Council even has its own committee dedicated to combating climate change. Also, only 1.6% of all council vehicles here are electric — what happened to leading by example?

Some other councils, such as Ards and North Down Borough Council, have taken it upon themselves to start green initiatives, whether it be solar panels on refuse collection vehicles or installing EV charging point at council buildings.

For these initiatives to really make a difference, however, they need more funding from Stormont and other sources.

NI’s Energy Strategy was published by the Department for the Economy in December, while Stormont’s own Climate Act recently got Royal Assent. However if it wasn’t for a rush to push through the latter legislation in the Assembly in the run-up to its dissolution, we would still be waiting.

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Now that this legislation is on the statute books, it’s time to get to work.

But Stormont, and councils here, have always been painfully slow at adapting, or getting big projects (Casement Park, the Flags and Culture report etc) off the ground. Electric vehicles, and the charging point that come with them, have been around for years.

Climate legislation wasn’t blocking the promotion of EVs or roll out of more charging points, the simple fact is the political will wasn’t there to get it done. Now, it is time for actions to follow the words of many of our politicians. Given the current Stormont stalemate, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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