The UK Climate Change Act 2008 provides enough legislative basis for NI to move forward with a Green Growth Strategy and specific targets and action plans, irrespective of whether Stormont actually approves NI Climate Change legislation, DAERA officials have insisted.

Delivering a briefing on the NI Executive’s Green Growth strategy to journalists on Wednesday, officials said detailed action plans for sectors including agriculture would fall out of the overarching strategy, and will be published in 2022.

The Green Growth Strategy itself was approved by Executive ministers in the autumn and published in October 2021.

Much of the content is based on advice from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC), which has recommended that NI can cut carbon emissions by at least 82% by 2050 as part of an overall UK net zero target by that date.

That 2050 target is in line with a legal requirement set out in the UK Climate Change Act.

While Executive ministers might have approved the Strategy, it is perhaps indicative of the dysfunctional nature of Stormont that some of the parties around the Executive table then backed the Clare Bailey bill which would require NI to reach net zero by 2045.

DAERA officials recognise that the livestock sector in particular, would have “tremendous difficulty” meeting that target, and point out that targets must be based on science and evidence, not views and opinions.

With Stormont due to dissolve next March ahead of May elections, it remains unclear whether either NI climate change bill will actually make it into law. But if neither gets passed, there will still be climate action plans set in 2022.

They will be based on the CCC advice, so might not be as ambitious as those supporting net zero by 2045 might like, acknowledge officials.

The public consultation on the Green Growth strategy closes at midnight on 21 December 2021. For those interested in responding, there are webinars planned for Wednesday 8 December (7-8pm) and Tuesday 14 December (10-11am).

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