The extra cost of NI reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions, rather than an 82% cut in emissions, is estimated to be £900m per year, MLAs have been warned.

That is in addition to an estimate from the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) that from 2030 onwards, NI will have to spend £1.3bn annually to meet the 82% target.

Speaking at Stormont’s agriculture committee, Assembly researcher Chris Rothwell said it was likely that the additional costs would have to be covered by the NI Executive’s budget and private industry.

“We contacted both Department of Finance and Treasury officials to confirm how these additional costs for a net zero target might be met. In both cases they confirmed that it would not be met by additional funding from the UK government,” he said.

Two climate change bills are currently up for scrutiny at Stormont.

A bill put forward by Green Party MLA Clare Bailey aims for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, while a bill from Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots has a target of at least an 82% cut in emissions by 2050.

The Green Party bill previously had the support of all the main political parties except the DUP, but the Ulster Unionist Party has since committed to supporting the 82% reduction target.

However, despite strong opposition from local farmers, Sinn Féin still appears to be wedded to the Green Party’s net zero target.

I believe the strength of the argument is with me, and that logic is with me

At Stormont last week, Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer accused Minister Poots of “grossly exaggerating” the total cost of net zero, as it is unclear if the extra £900m per year cost would be required in the short term, or closer to 2045.

Speaking to the NI Institute of Agricultural Science last week, Minister Poots said it was “proving challenging” to find the political support to get his climate bill through Stormont.

“I believe the strength of the argument is with me, and that logic is with me, but those things don’t guarantee victory unfortunately. We are going to give it our best shot to get a reasonable position identified and adopted,” he said.