Collaboration is Key to NI’s First Climate Change Act

Dr Amanda Slevin via PCAN

Throughout the Place-based Climate Action Network, there are amazing examples of diverse people and organisations working together to translate climate policy into action “on the ground” to bring about transformative change. Yet what happens when climate action efforts are constrained by the absence of policy? Northern Ireland is such a case, but that is set to change following collaborations between civil society, politicians and legal experts to advance Northern Ireland’s first Climate Change Act.

Although the UK has climate legislation with a net-zero emissions target by 2050 (Climate Change Act, 2008), climate change policy is a devolved matter. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) involves a net-zero target of 2045 and just transition principles, exemplifying how devolved administrations can innovate and become climate leaders. In March 2021, Senedd Cyrmu (the Welsh Parliament) increased their climate ambition by approving a net zero target of 2050, up from 80% reductions by 2050 established in the Environment (Wales) Act (2016).

Legacy of missed opportunities

In Northern Ireland, we have experienced the opposite, despite various opportunities since 2008. The Northern Ireland Executive’s (NIE) Programme for Government (2008-2011) identified climate change as “one of the most serious problems facing the world” and committed to a 25% carbon reduction by 2025. The Committee for the Environment’s Inquiry into Climate Change (2009) also agreed climate targets were important: it made 52 recommendations, including a proposal that new primary legislation in the medium to longer term should be considered when “sufficient local information is available to identify challenging but achievable targets”. However, primary legislation was not pursued.

Read the full story from PCAN here.