Call for ambitious Net Zero climate laws in Northern Ireland to tackle the climate crisis

Call for ambitious Net Zero climate laws in Northern Ireland to tackle the climate crisis

We are facing catastrophic climate breakdown. We need a truly ambitious Climate Change Bill for Northern Ireland to play our equal part in averting a climate crisis – both for nature and for ourselves. We have until 01 February to send a loud message to our Government that we need urgent, transformative change to ensure ours and our children’s future.

Help shape the Climate Change Act for Northern Ireland



A “Climate Emergency” was declared by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 03 February 2020 – this was in recognition of the urgent action and transformative change needed to stop human-induced global warming causing potentially irreversible environmental damage. 

At a UK level, as a result of declaring a Climate Emergency, in 2019 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were dropped from 80% to Net Zero; Scotland took a step further, setting new greenhouse gas emissions target to Net Zero by 2045, while the Republic of Ireland has also committed to a Net Zero target by 2050.

However, a Net Zero target by 2050 only gives us a 50% chance that such action will keep average global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  It is crucial we do everything we can to limit global warming to 1.5°C - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasised that 2°C or more of global warming could destroy ecosystems on around 13% of the world's land area, increasing the risk of extinction for many insects, plants and animals – in turn drastically altering the services these provide to humans and their role in human health. Holding warming to 1.5 °C would reduce that risk by half.

Northern Ireland may be a small country, but strong policy action underpinned by legally binding emissions reduction targets are essential for the UK to meet its commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming to well below 2°C. 

We have an opportunity now through the Government’s consultation on options for a Northern Ireland specific Climate Change Bill to send a clear message for urgent action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions across Northern Ireland, for a binding, challenging and ambitious Net Zero target for 2045, to limit the devastating impact climate change will have on nature and humanity.  By setting ambitious goals we are taking action for future generations and showing our commitment to protecting the natural environment upon which we depend.  This in turn will drive the policy action, investment and innovation needed to properly tackle the climate crisis.

School strike 20 Sept 2019

School strike 20 Sept 2019

Nature-Based Solutions

We now understand the critical role nature can play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, known as Nature - Based Solutions: such solutions present a great opportunity in Northern Ireland and this must fully recognised in the Climate Change Bill.

Natural solutions to climate change offer enormous co-benefits by promoting biodiversity, human wellbeing and ecosystem services such as improvement of water quality, all of which are intrinsically linked to the climate emergency. 

We would like to see a focus on:

1. Climate-friendly farming

Climate - resilient farming practices can substantially reduce emissions and promote carbon capture. We need long-term support to enable farmers to act as carbon custodians and managers, for example through planting trees and hedgerows, improving soil health and promoting peatland conservation and restoration.

2. Peatland restoration

86% of Northern Ireland’s peatlands are in a degraded state, currently acting as greenhouse gas emitters.  Through habitat restoration there is huge potential to reverse this and enable peatlands to play a substantial role in reducing emissions and capturing carbon.  Healthy peatlands also provide climate change resilience, for example through flood risk mitigation, biodiversity enhancement and improving water quality. 

3. The role of trees

Introducing more trees to our landscapes and protecting existing trees and woodlands is vital to achieving Net Zero.  We welcome schemes such as the Forests for Our Future programme but think we require a more ambitious target for 2045. Tree planting should be used in more innovative ways in appropriate locations and at a scale which will deliver what we need address the climate crisis.

4. Blue carbon

The role of coastal, marine and lakebed habitats is not yet included in the greenhouse gas inventory, however these habitats play a vital role in carbon capture. Within Northern Ireland, seagrass meadows, saltmarsh, kelp beds, oyster and mussel reefs and muddy sediments are crucial in storing carbon, and as such a strategy is needed to protect and restore these habitats that recognises this role in addition to protecting their biodiversity.