Climate Change and what Northern Ireland is doing about it.

Tonight the Assembly is debating the following motion;

That this Assembly notes that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December; considers that this is an opportunity to agree an ambitious global plan to tackle the threat of climate change; welcomes the Minister of the Environment’s attendance at this conference to represent Northern Ireland; further notes that the projected reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 33.3 per cent by 2025, based on 1990 levels, falls just short of the Programme for Government target of 35 per cent; and calls on the Minister of the Environment to work with his Executive colleagues to increase existing efforts and consider innovative approaches to help reduce emissions and move to a low carbon economy.

The Green Party does have an amendment tabled to introduce a Climate Bill for Northern Ireland with legally binding targets to bring down Green House Gas Emissions (GHG). However, I am told the DOE Minister, Mark H.Durkan is preparing such a bill.

So how has Northern Ireland been doing on this issue? The Department of the Environment has compiled some statistics of our performance from 1990-2013 (note these figures are never totally exact).

The departments statistical bulletin notes;

Northern Ireland’s 2013 GHG emissions are estimated at 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, similar to 2012 and only a small increase (1.2%) on the 2011 estimate. A significant drop in emissions was observed in the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector as the previous year had included emissions from exceptional forest wildfires. In the waste sector there was also a notable reduction in emissions from landfill. However, emissions in the energy supply sector saw a large increase as global fuel prices are causing a shift in power generation from burning natural gas to coal. Across all sectors, the 2013 emission levels show a longer term decrease of 16% since the base year.

Who are Northern Ireland’s biggest emitters?

The largest sources of emissions in 2013 are agriculture (29%), transport and energy supply (both making up 18% each) and residential (13%). All sectors, except for transport, show a decreasing trend since the base year with the greatest decreases in emissions observed in the energy supply and waste sectors (decreasing by around 1.3 and 1.1 million tonnes respectively).

Emissions NI

Agriculture issues

Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions account for 4.0% of the total UK greenhouse gas emissions. However Northern Ireland accounts for 7.8% of the UK’s methane (CH4) and 9.1% of the UK’s nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. The higher share of these gases is due to emissions from agricultural sources accounting for a higher proportion of the regional total than in the rest of the UK.

How are we doing compared to the rest of the UK? (note the health warning) 

GHG emissions in the UK have reduced by 30% since the base year. Scotland and England have the greatest percentage reductions (35% and 32% respectively). Northern Ireland and Wales have markedly lower reductions (16% and 12% respectively). Caution is advised when comparing relative performance due to the levels of uncertainty around each of the estimates.

Then goes on to note;

The trends in greenhouse gas source emissions since the base year for the UK countries are summarised below, but it should be noted that estimates for the individual countries are less certain than the overall UK estimate:
– UK has reduced emissions by 30.2%
– England has reduced emissions by 32.4%
– Scotland has reduced emissions by 35.4%7
– Wales has reduced emissions by 11.9%
– Northern Ireland has reduced emissions by 16.1%

Question for the Sluggerverse; are we doing enough? If not, then what else could the Executive do on this issue?

The debate is scheduled to being at 5:30pm this evening.

 

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs