NI climate bill edges closer

Climate change bills in Northern Ireland edge closer to completion (via The Guardian)

By Tommy Greene

Northern Ireland’s first legally binding climate act faces a race against time to get passed before the devolved institutions at Stormont are dissolved in the coming weeks.

The second of two climate change bills – introduced by the agriculture minister, Edwin Poots – has moved through consideration stage, with a batch of new amendments prompting more than 25 hours of assembly debate.

But its passage into law is threatened by a congested legislative timetable in the time before Stormont’s dissolution next month to allow for elections. After Paul Givan’s resignation as first minister last week, deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said the climate bill was among high–priority pieces of legislation that parties would hope to fast–track before the approaching deadline.

New features to the bill will see the legislation introduce a 2050 net zero target for Northern Ireland, along with an independent Climate Change Commissioner’s office. Other amendments added to the bill will include a “just transition” fund aimed at supporting agriculture, statutory carbon budgets, targets for biodiversity and soil quality.

There will also be a commitment that 10% of future transport budgets will go towards active travel.

Northern Ireland is the only jurisdiction in the UK and Ireland at present without dedicated climate legislation. The country’s low public transport spend (27% per head compared with the UK average) and declining biodiversity levels, among other considerations, have emboldened calls for a promised climate act.

The Green party NI leader, Clare Bailey, who tabled a first climate bill in 2020, told assembly members this week: “A majority of MLAs have made it clear that they support robust and ambitious climate legislation for Northern Ireland. We will have a net zero Climate Change Act for Northern Ireland, in whatever form it takes, because people want it, and the climate emergency demands it.

Read the full story by the Guardian here.