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Environment Minister Edwin Poots has today launched a consultation on the NI Executive’s first ever Climate Change Bill that he hopes will revolutionise our approach to climate change, slash our greenhouse gas emissions, help protect our environment, create jobs and sustain our economy.

The Minister hopes the new Bill will be viewed not just as an environmental challenge, but also as an economic opportunity. Responses from the consultation will help to inform the development of the Bill.

Commenting on the consultation launch, Minister Poots said: “Climate Change is a defining issue of our time on a global and national scale. This was recognised in the New Decade, New Approach document published earlier this year which called on the Executive to tackle climate change head on and to introduce legislation and targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Climate change is a challenge that Northern Ireland must meet head on. It is not something facing us in the future, it is happening here and now. A business as usual approach no longer works, it’s just not an option. We must play our part in the global effort to curb climate change by tackling the causes, such as reducing our emissions and increasing the capture of greenhouse gases. It is also a necessity that we do more to address the impacts and reduce those risks from climate change that we cannot prevent.

“Climate change is of course a challenge, but it also presents a massive economic opportunity, by changing how we approach business, production, waste and by using our natural resources to grow the economy. In doing so, we protect our environment whilst at the same time, develop it to maximise its benefits. If we do it well, we create highly skilled jobs, lower waste, reduce our carbon footprint, increase efficiency and of course, protect our environment for future generations.”

Speaking about the work already undertaken by his Department, the Minister continued: “I’ve already taken a number of steps to protect our environment, to both reduce our emissions and improve our capture of greenhouse gases to help secure a greener and more economically sustainable future for Northern Ireland:

  • In March this year, I launched the ‘Forests for Our Future’ programme which commits to planting 18 million trees in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years, creating 9,000 hectares of new woodland.
  • In June 2020, I launched my ambitious and bold roadmap for a ‘Green Growth’ recovery from Covid-19, which aims to develop and defend our natural assets whilst also creating a resilient economy and a healthy environment.
  • My Department is delivering a £23 million programme to provide financial assistance to local government to improve recycling services and facilities and we continue to reduce our carrier bag usage with our most recent statistics showing a 13.9% decrease from the previous year.
  • This year, I allocated £7.5million to the 3rd tranche of Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. The scheme supports the purchase of equipment and machinery, including equipment to reduce ammonia emissions and help secure long term benefits for our environment as well as the future sustainability of farms.
  • In November, I announced that the Northern Ireland Executive has recently approved a plan to reduce unnecessary plastic within the NICS government estate.
  • During November, I also launched a discussion document on Northern Ireland’s first ever Clean Air Strategy, which aims to improve the air we breathe and reducing the number of avoidable deaths associated with air pollution.

“Northern Ireland has seen progress in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, with the latest emission statistics published in June 2020 confirming a decrease of 20% in Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions compared to the base year (1990). Whilst this is a step in the right direction there is still a considerable way to go to achieve what is required in tackling climate change. We need urgent and concrete action now. I hope that by bringing through effective climate change legislation, we can move quickly towards achieving NetZero within the UK at least by 2050.”

The Minister concluded: “It is vital that Northern Ireland’s Climate Change legislation is well informed and based on sound evidence and science. Climate change effects everyone, and everyone in Northern should have their say in what climate change legislation for Northern Ireland should look like. Now is the time to act and it is crucial that we do all that we can to protect our planet and secure a greener cleaner future for both current and future generations to come, and a Northern Ireland Bill is a step in the right direction.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest, stakeholders, industry, and the general public, to actively participate in this consultation which is open to 1 February 2021.”