Climate Change (No. 2) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:00 am on 9th March 2022.

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Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin 11:00 am, 9th March 2022

As others have done, I thank the Committee staff, staff from RaISe, the Bill Office and departmental staff for all their assistance throughout this process. I also thank all the witnesses and those who responded to the consultation. I also give thanks and praise to the climate campaigners out there, particularly young people, who helped to keep the issue on the agenda and have led us to where we are today.

Let there be no doubt that dealing with global warming and climate change is the issue of our time. From the resumption of the Assembly in 2020, when Sinn Féin tabled the first motion that was debated in the Chamber in order to declare a climate emergency, progressing climate legislation in this mandate has been a priority for us. We wanted legislation that was not only ambitious, with a net zero target, but legislation that was fair, just and deliverable. We wanted legislation that would help us here in the North to play our part in the climate emergency and that left no sector of society behind.

The Bill may be considered to be the Minister's Bill, but, in reality, it bears no resemblance to the Bill that he introduced here a number of months ago. In my view, the process has witnessed good collaboration across most of the political parties in the Chamber, and, through the work of Sinn Féin and others in the Committee scrutiny process and at previous stages of the Bill, a vast number of amendments have been added to the Bill. Those amendments will ensure that the work that we do over the next three decades will be based on just transition principles. There will also be a just transition commission to help oversee progress, a separate just transition scheme for the agriculture sector and other protections for small businesses and our agricultural and rural communities. From the Bill, work will be done with an eye on nature-based solutions, and there are amendments that we and others tabled in order to deal with carbon leakage. Also introduced is independent oversight via a climate commissioner, as well as climate action plans and sectoral plans. The Bill also includes the very important protection of the need for public consultation and the support of MLAs at various steps along the way.

The Bill is, by and large, a framework Bill, but it will, rightly, be central to the work, plans and policies that the Executive and all Departments will take forward, and, over the next three decades, it will help to transform the society that we live in.

We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. If the need to save our planet did not make that obvious, the current cost-of-living crisis, because of our dependence on oil and gas, should certainly hammer home the point.