Climate Legislation

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 31st January 2022.

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Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 12:15 pm, 31st January 2022

Since 1998, the people of Northern Ireland have got used to being let down by politicians at Stormont. The traditional parties have offered us division, indecision and, far too often, the collapse of devolution itself. Tomorrow, we have a collective opportunity to show the courage and leadership that are needed to get us on the path to new ways of delivering the action that we need to safeguard our children and grandchildren's future.

The breakdown of our climate is the most urgent and important issue facing us as leaders, legislators and human beings. In December 2020, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the world that we were at "code red for humanity". At COP26 in Glasgow, a few months ago, we heard that we are not on target to prevent temperatures rising by above 1·5°C, as global leaders pledged in the 2016 Paris Accord, because, so far, we have failed to make the changes required.

In Northern Ireland, we have been failing. While England, Scotland and Wales have made efforts to reduce carbon by up to 45%, Ireland, North and South, has not. The North has delivered less than that of GB; instead, we have chosen to continue with the business-as-usual model. We have failed to invest, to deliver and even to maintain an Executive for three years of this mandate. The South actually increased its emissions during that time and has now set its ambition to facilitating net zero by 2050.

Every one of our rivers, lakes and coastal waters has failed to meet basic quality standards. We are the twelfth highest region in the world for biodiversity loss. We have the highest per capita emissions across these islands. We remain the only place in western Europe without climate legislation. It is 2022, yet we have no strategies on air pollution, ammonia or waste. The recently published energy strategy paves the way for blue hydrogen, yet we still invest public money in fossil fuels. We are the only part of these islands with no net zero ambition.

We can do better; indeed, it is morally just to do so. We must ensure that any climate legislation that the Assembly passes is ambitious enough to meet the scale of the crisis that we face and enables all sectors to move forward sustainably. The eyes of future generations are on us. The issue goes beyond party political interest, short-term electoral cycles and, certainly, the interests of corporate lobbyists. It is about securing our future and that of our children. For too long, Stormont has failed our people and our planet. It is time that we changed that.