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Climate Action Milestone 21 October 2020

‘Key milestone for climate action in Northern Ireland’

Climate Action Milestone

 ‘A key milestone for climate action in Northern Ireland’ is how the submission of a Climate Change Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly has been described by the Climate Coalition Northern Ireland[i] and MLAs. The Private Members Bill is being submitted to the Speaker’s Office today – three months after the Assembly passed a motion calling for the introduction of a Climate Change Act within that timeframe.

 Supported by MLAs from across the political spectrum, the Climate Change Bill will provide a legislative basis for climate action in NI. The Bill sets a target for Northern Ireland to reach net–zero carbon emissions by 2045 and includes the establishment of a Northern Ireland Climate Office. The Bill is co–sponsored by Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ulster Unionist Party, Alliance Party, Green Party, People Before Profit, and an Independent MLA[ii].

 The Bill is an outcome of in–depth consultation with legal experts[iii], Climate Coalition NI members, and elected representatives, and responds to the groundswell of public opinion in favour of a Climate Change Act. The public’s demand for climate action is evident in declarations of climate and ecological emergencies by local and national governments, public demonstrations including protests and youth strikes, and opinion polls like RSPB’s recent survey in which 74% of respondents supported the introduction of a Climate Change Act for NI[iv].

 Climate Coalition NI Chair Dr Amanda Slevin (PCAN Policy Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast) said:

 “As a cross party, cross–community initiative, the Climate Change Bill shows how much we can achieve when we work together. NI needs its own Climate Act, building on the commitment within ‘New Decade, New Approach’ to introduce legislation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Accord. The Bill will establish the necessary legislative basis for multi–level climate action and offers opportunities for a just transition to a sustainable, low–carbon future for Northern Ireland.”

 Anurag Deb, the lawyer who led on drafting the Bill, emphasised:

 “This Bill is the product of a lot of time, effort and discussion, but it is by no means the finished product. It is only the first step in securing effective climate change mitigation in Northern Ireland.”

 Clare Bailey MLA, who is Lead Sponsor of the Bill, said:

 “The Bill will enable Northern Ireland to become climate resilient and to achieve an environmentally sustainable economy. These measures are much needed. Northern Ireland is falling behind on a raft of climate targets and indicators … We owe it to our citizens to make the just transition to a low carbon economy, leaving no one behind.” 

 James Orr, CCNI Member and Director of Friends of the Earth NI, played a key role in the evolution of the Bill:

“I salute the broad coalition of political support for the Bill. This Bill is a declaration of hope in the future, a future that young people and communities across the planet have been demanding for years. We will be scrutinising the Bill’s progress over the next year to give it the strength and ambition needed to tackle the global climate emergency. ”

[i] Climate Coalition Northern Ireland was formed in early 2020 to facilitate cooperation between organisations working on climate change issues, locally and globally, in order to bring about appropriate action in Northern Ireland to tackle climate change. The Coalition represents a broad range of civil society groups, including academics, environmental NGOs, business representatives, international development agencies, students’ unions, and concerned individuals. CCNI members represent over 390,000 people across Northern Ireland.

[ii] The Climate Change Bill is co–sponsored by Philip McGuigan (Sinn Féin), Mark H. Durkan (SDLP), John Stewart (Ulster Unionist Party), John Blair (Alliance Party), Clare Bailey (Green Party), Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit), and Trevor Lunn (Independent).

[iii] Legal experts include:

·        Anurag Deb – PhD Researcher, Queen’s University Belfast  

·        Laura Neal – Lawyer, Friends of the Earth

·        Nicolas Hanna QC – The Bar of Northern Ireland

·        Monye Anyadike–Danes QC – The Bar of Northern Ireland

·        Dr Ciara Brennan – School of Law, Newcastle University and Environmental Justice Network Ireland

·        Professor Ole Pederson – School of Law, Newcastle University

·        Dr Thomas L Muinzer – Senior Lecturer in Energy Transition Law and Co–Director, Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law