Stormont facing a climate change rift

Stormont First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have told Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) that climate change is “one of the most serious problems” facing the planet.

But their Northern Ireland Executive colleague Sammy Wilson — the man in charge of the Department of the Environment — has declared himself to be “not exercised” by his own carbon footprint.

The three ministers made the comments in written answers to Assembly questions tabled by Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay.

Their replies have again highlighted the conflict between the official policy of the Executive and the Environment Minister’s deeply sceptical views on whether climate change is man-made.

In their joint written answer, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness stated: “It is clear that climate change is one of the most serious problems facing the world.

“While we recognise that it requires action internationally, we are determined to play our part in addressing this challenge.”

The First Ministers also cited official targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions here and to increase the percentage of electricity from indigenous renewable sources.

“All departments and ministers are committed to the delivery of these ambitious targets as we move forward,” they added.

Mr Wilson has infuriated environmentalists since his appointment as Environment Minister last year by rubbishing their arguments on mankind’s contribution to climate change.

He blocked a Government advertisement campaign on climate change, describing it as part of an “insidious propaganda campaign”.

The Assembly’s Environment Committee responded by passing a vote of no confidence in Mr Wilson.

But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) minister hit back, calculating the carbon footprint of many of his critics on the committee.

He was then asked about his own footprint in a written question tabled by Mr McKay.

Mr Wilson’s newly-published reply stated: “I have not studied my carbon footprint because I am not exercised about it.

“I was simply giving the information to members who seem to be deeply concerned by the matter.”

In one of his repeated strongly-worded defences of his position, the Environment Minister said late last year: “I’ll not be stopped saying what I believe needs to be said about climate change.

“Most of the people who shout about climate change have not read one article about it.”

The DUP’s manifesto for the 2007 Assembly election stated: “It is important that we in Northern Ireland not only look after our own environment but also play our part in global issues such as tackling climate change.”

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph