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Committee on Climate Change Advises Northern Ireland to Harness Significant Opportunities to Reduce Emissions

This post originally appeared on November 2, 2011 on the UK Committee on Climate Change's website.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will today advise the Northern Ireland Environment Minister that legislated emission reduction targets could be helpful to harness the significant opportunities to reduce emissions in Northern Ireland. The Committee was asked by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister to provide advice on whether it is appropriate for Northern Ireland to enact its own climate change legislation, including the introduction of legally binding emissions targets. The 2008 UK Climate Change Act extends to Northern Ireland, requiring Northern Ireland to contribute to overall UK targets to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. It does not however specify particular targets or budgets for Northern Ireland.

Fresh analysis published by the Committee shows that there is scope to reduce emissions across agriculture, transport, buildings, and the public sector by up to 25% from today’s levels in 2020 (i.e. a level consistent with the path to longer term required reductions).

Many of the actions which could be taken to reduce emissions, could also save people money, and would enable Northern Ireland to reduce its reliance on carbon and imported fossil fuels, thereby reducing security of supply impacts. This would result in economic benefits in a world where carbon and fossil fuels are increasingly short in supply.

In today’s report, the Committee said that the introduction of legislation could be useful in providing certainty to businesses and policy makers. If the Executive decide to introduce legislation, this should be focused on those emissions that lie directly in their control (i.e. in the non-traded sector), rather than those covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). There is also a question about precise timing, and whether it should be delayed until uncertainties about agricultural emissions are resolved in 2014.

Whether or not legislation is passed, it is crucial that the Northern Ireland Executive now puts in place a set of policies and incentives to unlock potential from:

Agriculture:

Emissions from agriculture are the largest source of emissions in Northern Ireland at 27% of total emissions (5.2MtCO2e). Emissions could be reduced by 20% in 2020 (by 1MtCO2e) through the implementation of measures to encourage more efficient farming practices.

Road transport:

This is the second largest source of emissions in Northern Ireland, at 22% of the 2009 total (4.3MtCO2e). Average emissions per person via transport are higher than that of the UK average, reflecting a more rural dispersed population and less frequent use of public transport (e.g. for 8% of distance travelled compared to 17% in GB). Reducing emissions in line with the UK would result in a reduction of 25% by 2020 (1.2MtCO2e). Achieving this requires introducing more efficient low-carbon vehicles, using biofuels and by supporting Smarter Choices (an initiative which encourages people to use public transport more) and eco-driver training.

Homes:

Emissions from homes account for 17% of Northern Ireland total (3.4MtCO2e). Due to the limited gas network in Northern Ireland, the majority of homes are reliant on expensive oil as a source of heating, contributing to high rates of fuel poverty. Emissions could be reduced by a third over the next decade by insulating more solid walls and switching to renewable heating – doing this could also reduce numbers of fuel poor.

Public Sector:

The public sector accounts for 60% of employment and spending in Northern Ireland. There is an important leadership role for the Executive to play here in leading by example through the way it manages procurement, approaches energy efficiency and electricity consumption across its estate, and by investing in key industries under public ownership – including public transport and water.

Power:

There is a major opportunity for Northern Ireland to invest in renewable power generation (wind and marine) to help decarbonise the economy. Northern Ireland has a target to ensure that 40% of its power comes from renewable sources by 2020.

David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee said:

There are significant opportunities to reduce emissions in Northern Ireland. Legislating carbon targets could help efforts to reduce emissions, if supported by appropriate policies. Moving now to a low carbon path will be of economic benefit to the people of Northern Ireland in an increasingly carbon and resource constrained world.

This post is the work of an Open Climate Network partner. The World Resources Institute is not responsible for the content or opinions expressed by the author.

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