Speaking during an Assembly debate on climate crisis legislation today, former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan MLA said:
“The urgent need for a Climate Change Bill has been well established. The extensive body of research demands that we act immediately. No longer can it be swept under the rug to be dealt with at a later date.
“Climate change is here, it is happening and we are already bearing witness to its dire consequences playing out globally and on our doorsteps- communities here have been devastated by flooding in recent years and fluctuating weather patterns saw the North experience practically every season within the course of the last week. If we are to turn back the clock on climate catastrophe, we cannot afford further delay.
“Credit must be given to citizens and indeed councils, many of whom have been ahead of the curve, taking individual responsibility to consider their personal choices and to enact green initiatives like Derry City & Strabane District Council who have spearheaded the first council adaptation plan in the North. Yet to truly affect positive change here, we need a strong legal underpinning of climate principles- it now falls to the executive to play catch up in that regard.
“I agree these targets are ambitious. However, this is not a ‘pie in the sky’ notion but rather they’re ambitious because they need to be. For too long this executive has rested on its laurels- not to mention three years of complete inaction- to the detriment of both denizens and climate.
“In January 2020 all parties committed to introducing a Climate Change Act under New Decade New Approach. And again in July, MLAs uttered the same appeals, when we called on Minister Poots to introduce a Climate Change Act within three months. Now ten months down the line, Northern Ireland remains the only jurisdiction within these islands without greenhouse reduction targets enshrined in law.
“Climate Action will be a challenge for all government departments to overcome, yet my party colleague and Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has demonstrated that even within a Department where Climate Change targets have posed some of the biggest challenges, incorporating green initiatives is doable in leading by example, she has created a picture of what is possible for others.
“I can’t pretend, however that there has been consensus on this issue and while I understand the concerns raised by some within the Agriculture Sector in particular, climate principles are here to stay and will inform the trajectory for practically all future legislation here and beyond.
“The genesis of this Bill was forged on the premise of collaboration and it’s that playbook which will instruct how we move forward. Delivering real tangible change requires difficult conversations to be had and difficult decisions to be made. Without courage there is no progress. And the alternative; that of inaction by the Assembly, doesn’t bear thinking about.
“We cannot backpedal on the commitment made under NDNA nor can we afford a piecemeal approach- the time for Climate Justice is now.
“The Bill sets in stone a promise to future generations. It is the embodiment of hope that together we can make a difference; by creating green, sustainable communities that deliver for everyone. Today’s promises, guarantee tomorrow’s reality. We owe it to our children and future generations to honour that promise.”