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Stormont has been urged to encourage a 20% reduction in meat and diary consumption in Northern Ireland by Westminster’s Climate Change Committee.

It was among a list of recommendations included in the CCC’s 2022 report to Parliament on our progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The independent statutory body was established in 2008 to advise the UK and its devolved governments how to meet legally binding climate targets.

Read more:Planners should be looking 200yrs ahead to protect Belfast from climate crisis

They say a “20% shift away from all meat by 2030, rising to 35% by 2050 and a 20% shift away from dairy by 2030” will demonstrate “leadership in the public sector while improving health”.

NI has also been urged to get to work on decarbonising home heating, power and insulating homes to help ‘ordinary people’ and the climate.

CCC chair Lord Deben says the answer to both the cost of living and climate crisis is “renewables” which will reduce emissions and the cost of energy.

How NI compares to the rest of the UK on climate targets
How NI compares to the rest of the UK on climate targets

“Renewable energy is the cheapest way of energy production now,” he said, before branding any push to use fossil fuels for longer “really foolish”.

The former Conservative environment secretary says even if the UK extracts its own fossil fuels or passes “indefensible” plans for a new coalmine in Cumbria; that coal, oil or gas be will be no cheaper for ‘ordinary people’ since prices are set internationally.

And he blasted the “scandal” that has seen 1.5 million new homes built across the UK in the past five years, that will now need to be retrofitted to reduce emissions and make them more sustainable.

The CCC chair gave the UK government as a whole 4/5, saying current policies will not get the UK to Net Zero.

NI emissions by sector
NI emissions by sector

The overall climate targets are legally binding and while the UK is treated as one entity, Northern Ireland has its own set of recommendations and challenges.

Not least, the fact that agricultural emissions continue to rise while every other industry has seen its emissions falls.

The report also states “peat restoration in Northern Ireland” is behind the rest of the UK, while “peat extraction continues” despite awareness that peatlands are vital carbon sinks.

It highlights “an intent to explore the potential ban on peat extraction on all publicly owned land by 2022”.

NI’s progress on recycling was highlighted alongside concerns about the amount of waste England incinerates.

The CCC also recommended that NI’s long-haul passenger duty is brought in line with the UK’s to better reflect the “climate impact of flying”.

We are the worst performing on EV charge point installation
We are the worst performing on EV charge point installation

Other suggestions include:

  • Action to encourage 20% shift away from meat and dairy consumption by 2030
  • Support deployment of EV chargers as NI worst UK performer
  • Implement deposit return scheme for bottles and consistent recycling and waste food collections
  • Strengthen support and planning for active travel
  • A Net-Zero plan for agriculture and land use
  • Ensure funding for tree planting
  • Detail on how post-CAP agricultural subsidies will deliver for climate
  • Plant trees on 5% of farmland by 2035 and extend hedges 20%
  • Correct incentives for 58% peatland restoration by 2035
  • Set timeframe to end peat extraction
  • Train civil service on climate skills
  • Target waste reduction and circular economy objectives in Green Growth and Environment strategy
  • Ensure all policies, funding and delivery mechanisms are properly aligned to deliver Net-Zero

Speaking about the Government’s overall performance so far, Lord Deben added: “They ought to be as disappointed as we are that we are not on course.

“I hope they listen to this and they start acting on it.”

A spokesperson for DAERA said its Minister, Edwin Poots, “has received the Climate Change Committee’s Progress Report on Reducing Emissions and is considering its findings”.

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