The environment is “continuing to suffer due to a failure” to develop and roll out schemes helping households and industry reduce emissions, according to MLA Claire Sugden.

She has been commenting following the release of figures that showed Northern Ireland’s (NI) carbon dioxide (CO2) output increased between 2020 and 2021.

Sudgen said: “The protracted absence of an [Stormont] Assembly or Executive meant no new schemes were being created.”

Carbon emissions

Speaking on the issues, Sudgen explained that everyone has been aware of the need to lower emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) “for many years”.

She said that the period the figures covers “precedes” the establishment of the NI climate act, and even when looked at long-term, “Northern Ireland still lags behind every other area of the UK in emissions reductions since 1990”.

Sugden added: “The climate act was a big, but necessary step for Northern Ireland, and ambitious commitments were made.

“Ensuring these don’t simply remain ideals, but are achieved by their target dates, will need comprehensive and enduring public policies that help people and industry lower – and eventually eliminate – their carbon footprint.

“In the absence of an Assembly and Executive, action on this will remain wanting, but in areas such as agriculture and transport, investment and support is required to change habits and technologies while sustaining livelihoods and infrastructure.

“We must not see further increases in our emissions. Instead, in future years, we must see significant and sustainable reductions,” she added.

The figures

Agriculture was the largest emitting sector of Northern Ireland’s GHG emissions in 2021, statistics released by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) earlier this week revealed.

According to the Northern Ireland Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2021 report, agriculture was responsible for 27.6% of emissions in 2021.

Just after agriculture was the transport sector, which contributed 16.7% to overall emissions, while the business, energy supply and residential sectors contributed 14.0%, 13.7% and 12.4% respectively.   

Between 2020 and 2021, the agriculture sector saw the second-largest increases of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) with 0.3Mt CO2e with the energy supply following with 0.2Mt CO2e sectors.