In an open letter, the UK’s Climate Change Committee has stated that if Northern Ireland is to meet its net-zero target for 2050, then a “major step-up in policy and rapid progress over the 2020s” is required.
The letter, which responded directly to the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Climate Change Bill, states that if the headline target of achieving ‘net-zero’ by 2050 is going to be attained then “concerted action will be required to decarbonise Norther Ireland’s buildings over this decade”.
The letter goes on to warn that, at minimum, all new heating systems should be zero-carbon by 2028 for properties off the gas grid and by 2033 for those on the grid. This represents around 75% of homes in Northern Ireland. In addition, all newly-constructed homes would not only have to be nearly zero energy, but net zero-carbon as soon as practicable, with no requirement for later retrofit.
In addition, the committee several other key areas where urgent change should be effected:
- deployment of new renewable electricity generation at scale
- all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2032 at the latest
- an increased proportion of journeys made by walking and cycling
- rail services to be largely electrified, reducing the proportion of diesel trains to 15% by 2050, from the current 87%
- the restoration of more than half of Northern Ireland’s peatland
- increase tree-planting rates from 226 hectares per year over the last decade to 2,500 hectares per year by 2035
The letter closes by stating that with “strong policies across the economy, rapid progress can be made in this decade” but warns that Northern
Ireland is “already playing catch-up with the rest of the UK in many areas” and that “new targets will quickly lose credibility if the policy focus does not shift quickly to implementation and success is seen in delivery of outcomes.”