The likelihood of DAERA’s climate change bill passing through Stormont and becoming law has been thrown into doubt.
Last week, Stormont’s agriculture committee requested that the committee stage of the bill is extended until 4 February 2022. Committee chairman and Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer said the extension was needed so that MLAs could carry out “robust scrutiny” of the bill.
If the legislative process is not completed before the Assembly is dissolved, then DAERA’s climate change bill will not become law
However, DAERA has said the proposed extension would mean “time will be extremely limited” for the bill to pass through the remaining stages at Stormont before next May’s Assembly election.
If the legislative process is not completed before the Assembly is dissolved, then DAERA’s climate change bill will not become law.
“This [committee] extension would therefore concern DAERA given that time remaining in this mandate is short already and the issue of a climate change bill is of such high importance and also high complexity,” the DAERA spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.
Clare Bailey’s bill includes a headline target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045
A separate climate change bill, which was brought forward by Green Party MLA Clare Bailey, is at more advanced stage in the Stormont process. This bill began committee stage in mid-May, whereas the DAERA bill only proceeded to committee stage on 27 September.
Clare Bailey’s bill includes a headline target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, but the DAERA bill aims for at least an 82% reduction in emissions by 2050.
The DAERA spokesperson confirmed that discussions with the Green Party on a compromise between the two bills centres around certain aspects of Clare Bailey’s bill being incorporated into the DAERA bill.
This includes setting up a NI climate commissioner to oversee how policies are implemented and guarantees that agreed climate targets cannot be lowered in the future.
However, the net zero emissions target remains a red line for DAERA, as it was not recommended by experts on the UK government’s Climate Change Committee.
“The Minister has been clear and remains of the view that whilst he is in favour of maximum science-led ambition he cannot, and will not, support a net zero target or any target that is not based on sound evidence,” the DAERA spokesperson said.