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Northern Ireland politicians voted in favour of splitting targets for greenhouse gas reductions in the latest debate on Edwin Poots’ Climate Bill. The legislation, which has now passed its further consideration stage at the Assembly, will see methane targets reduced to 46% on baseline levels.

Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide as it retains more heat. Because of the distinction, other greenhouse gases will now have to be reduced at a faster rate so our net-zero target can be met.

Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey said: “This week’s IPCC report told us climate breakdown is creating ‘an atlas of human suffering’, and has been the starkest reminder yet of the importance of taking climate action.

Read more:PSNI called after man climbs Belfast tree in bid to save it from chainsaws

“I am disappointed that MLAs passed Minister Poots’ amendment to include a less ambitious target for methane emissions reductions in the Bill. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming effect more than 80 times that of carbon dioxide, so it is vital that methane emissions are cut.

“Despite the Minister’s amendment passing, the overall target of net-zero emissions by 2050 secured by the Green Party NI remains in place. This means that other greenhouse gases will now need to be reduced more rapidly to make up for the less ambitious methane target.”

The Bill will go back before MLAs for final consideration in the coming weeks.

“Whilst the Bill is not everything we wanted, the Green Party NI has secured the inclusion of 12 key amendments to significantly improve and strengthen what was originally proposed by the Minister,” added Ms Bailey.

“It’s time for MLAs to ensure that the Bill is passed, and Northern Ireland is no longer left as the only part of Western Europe without climate legislation in place.”

Climate Bill No 1, which is supported by a cross-party coalition led by the Green Party, will be debated by MLAs next week. Meanwhile, Minister Poots announced on Tuesday that his department is now working on a blue carbon action plan and marine protection area strategy for Northern Ireland.

Blue carbon is the carbon dioxide stored in coastal and marine ecosystems.

Minister Poots said: “The Northern Ireland marine area is 6,855km2 and represents approximately one third of our natural environment. The importance of blue carbon habitats and their contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation is now globally recognised.

"Therefore, our blue carbon habitats need to be protected as when they are degraded or damaged, their carbon sink capacity is lost and the stored carbon is released. By acting now and developing a blue carbon action plan, we can take steps to help protect and restore blue carbon habitats in the Northern Ireland marine and coastal environment.”

The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, which is a coalition of eNGOs, says they “look forward to co-designing these important aspects of marine policy, working towards, healthy, productive and resilient seas for Northern Ireland”.

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