On December 1, a motion to have a Climate Bill for Northern Ireland with legally binding long-term and interim targets to reduce carbon emissions was passed with a narrow majority in the Assembly.
Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world. It goes far beyond being an environmental problem, but is one that if not properly addressed, will drive and exacerbate poverty and global insecurity.
The COP21 talks currently taking placeÂ in Paris have the ability to seriously challenge climate change. Over 160 countries, responsible for 90% of global emissions and 90% of the global economy, have come forward with what they propose to do to reduce emissions. This has already been called â€œa significant move forward from business as usualâ€.
I see climate change as very firmly a global justice issue, and unfortunately, not a future but current problem. Despite doing the least to cause it, the poorest people in the world are already experiencing the full force of climate change, making already challenging lives even harder, with drought, flood and other extreme weather becoming increasingly frequent and food supply becoming less predictable or secure.
Every month and year of delay in tackling climate change costs lives. Climate Justice and a good deal will be about simultaneous mitigation and adaptation – preventing catastrophic temperature rise – already almost halfway to the doomsday scenario of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels â€“ whilst in parallel working to try to ensure that individuals, communities and countries have the ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate change impacts.
To date adaptation is completely inadequate. If all of todayâ€™s public adaptation finance were to be divided among the worldâ€™s 1.5 billion smallholder farmers in developing counties, they would get around $3 each a year to cope with climate change.
I worked in international development for over a decade before joining the Assembly, I know the innovation and the will is there â€“ from stoves made of mud, to drought resistant crops, and houses built on stilts â€“ the poorest neighbourhoods in the world are trying to adapt to the climate change our consumption habits are driving, but giving people the choices they need for low carbon futures will cost more than $3 each per year.
The meaningful transition to a lower-carbon world economy and sustainable development can only be achieved through a coordinated international effort, enshrined in a fair and effective and binding global agreement â€“ nobody is going to jump first and we certainly shouldn’t expect developing countries to do so.
I think people around the world fear that politicians in general donâ€™t appear to have the will and the long term thinking, beyond our next elections, for the serious mindset and infrastructural changes that will be required to arrest this problemÂ â€“ but which I am confident will bring benefits beyond the climate.Â I am hopeful we canÂ confound expectations and maturely play our part in tackling this most major global problem.