Views sought on climate change legislation

This pre-consultation gives Northern Ireland citizens and businesses the chance to contribute to decisions on policy proposals

The Environment Minister Alex Attwood is seeking views on the value of Northern Ireland climate change legislation or a voluntary approach to emissions reductions.

Legislation could include statutory targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, set out the role of an independent climate change committee, introduce new statutory reporting duties on public authorities and other less prescriptive approaches.

Northern Ireland is already included in UK legislation that provides for a UK framework for dealing with the climate change issue. However, it does not provide for a local framework.

For example it does not set statutory targets at a Northern Ireland level nor require public authorities in Northern Ireland to report on their climate readiness. The Scottish Government has recognised the need for a local legislative framework and has its own legislation in place. The administrations in Wales and the Republic of Ireland are considering new legislative proposals on this issue.

Impact for Northern Ireland

Alex Attwood said: “The impacts of climate change have the potential to be highly significant to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. Disruption to business, agriculture, services and our daily lives will increase if adverse changes occur. An increased risk of flooding and coastal erosion will put pressure on drainage, sewage, roads, water and habitat.

“I believe that we should do all that is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst putting in place the necessary measures to create a framework for managing the transition to a low carbon economy, positioning Northern Ireland as a world leader in carbon reduction. In my view this can be supported by the introduction of Northern Ireland climate change legislation. But whatever course is chosen, ensuring NI business has good opportunities to grow, must be a key factor in the conclusions reached.”

The Minister advised that the introduction of any new legislation would be determined by the Executive.

Responses encouraged

The Minister added: “I am asking the public for their views on a NI Climate Change Bill. The outcome will help inform decisions on more detailed policy proposals that I can bring to the Executive for its consideration. No final decisions have been taken on the content of a Bill.

“I would encourage everyone to respond with their comments and play a part in shaping policy on this important issue. This is a pre-consultation. There is an open door for all to contribute. No approach is preordained. All approaches need to be interrogated.”

The pre-consultation runs until 24 May 2013.

You can find out more about the NI Climate Change Bill and access the pre-consultation documents on the Department of the Environment website.