Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022
Jurisdiction: Northern Ireland
Commencement: 6th June 2022
Amends: New Legislation
The Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 sets targets for Northern Ireland to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including a target for net-zero emissions by 2050, in an effort to tackle climate change. There are no direct compliance duties for organisations under the Act, however, secondary legislation may be applicable.
This Act came into force on 6th June 2022 and applies to Northern Ireland only. It includes a net-zero target by 2050 as well as transitional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets for 2030 and 2040. The Act also sets out a carbon budgeting framework, provisions for reporting against emissions targets and carbon budgets, and the appointment of a climate change commissioner.
There are no compliance duties for organisations under this Act, however, secondary legislation may be applicable.
Part 1 – Emissions targets and sectoral plans
Part 1 of the Act lists the GHG emissions targets, as outlined below.
- Net-zero emissions by 2050. (N.B. This target excludes methane emissions which only need to be reduced to 46% against the baseline by 2050.)
- A reduction of at least 48% in GHG emissions against the baseline by 2030.
- Lastly, a GHG emissions target for 2040 (to be confirmed within 24 months of this Act coming into force) that is in line with the 2050 target.
This part of the Act also contains some information on plans to meet the emissions targets for the following sectors (sectoral plans).
- Renewable electricity consumption – at least 80% of Northern Ireland’s electricity consumption must be from renewable sources by 2030.
- Industrial processes
- Waste management – at least 70% of the waste in Northern Ireland needs to be recycled by 2030.
- Active travel.
Part 2 – Carbon budgets
Part 2 lays out the details on the setting of carbon budgets* by DAERA for each budgetary period** at levels consistent with meeting the emissions targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050.
*Carbon budget is a term used to refer to the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions allowed over a period of time, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
**The budgetary periods, for the purposes of this Act, are 2023 to 2027 and each period of 5 years after that.
DAERA must set the carbon budgets for the first 3 budgetary periods (2023 to 2027, 2028 to 2032, and 2033 to 2037) before the end of 2023, and at least 12 years before the start of the budgetary period for any subsequent budgetary periods, i.e. the carbon budget for the 4th budgetary period (2038 to 2042) needs to be set by 2026.
DAERA may also decide to transfer a part of the unused carbon budget back to the preceding budgetary period, or forward to the next budgetary period, as detailed in Section 28 (Carrying amounts from one budgetary period to another).
Part 3 – Reports and statements against targets and budgets
The proposals and policies for meeting the carbon budgets and emissions targets are set out in Part 3 of the Act. This part also includes ‘Just Transition’ clauses, including a ‘Just Transition Fund for Agriculture’*, to support the sectors through the changes brought by the Act, and to avoid causing them a disadvantage such as being unfairly penalised.
*The ‘Just Transition Fund for Agriculture’ is a fund inspired by the ‘Just Transition Fund‘ developed by the Scottish Government, designed to help the agricultural sector in Northern Ireland to contribute to the delivery of the climate action plans (more information on the fund is available in Section 31).
Part 4 – Reports by Committee on Climate Change
Part 4 provides details on the reports the Committee on Climate Change* must send to DAERA in relation to the progress made to meet the carbon budgets and the emissions targets.
*The Committee on Climate Change is an independent, non-governmental body established under Part 2 of the Climate Change Act 2008 to give advice to the Government on meeting the emissions targets, and to report on the progress of reducing GHG emissions.
Part 5 – Further oversight
This part establishes the Northern Ireland Climate Commissioner as an independent office to oversee and report on the operations of the Act, and states a commitment to developing a climate action plan within 2 years from the day the Act came into effect.
Part 6 – Supplementary
This provides some extra information in relation to the provisions of the Act such as duties to ensure targets are met and regulation-making powers.
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