Anna Lo MLA said: “I am delighted that the first motion for debate after the summer recess is on the Green economy which the alliance party believes can help to create new jobs and tackle climate change by the development of energy efficiency and renewables. We urge the Executive to prioritise the green economy in the Programme for Government and agree an overall development strategy.
“We need a joined up approach to address the ‘triple crunch’ of recession, energy prices and climate change.
“Alliance sees potential for new forms of economic growth and employment from the green revolution, and believes that Northern Ireland has an opportunity to become a world leader in renewables given our rich natural resources in winds and tides.
“The environment is one of the fastest growing sectors of the world’s economy. Other countries are already well aware of this and have embraced green energy. The Danish wind industry employed 28,400 people in 2008 and contributed 5.7 billion euros to their economy. Germany employed 160,000 people in the renewable energy sector in 2004, this rose to 278,000 following a stimulus plan in 2008 to create a green economy in their country.
“Countries no longer have a choice when it comes to developing renewable energy. European targets for 2020 mean that 15% of the UK’s energy and 16% of Ireland’s energy must be renewable energy. Failing to meet targets will mean huge fines from the EU. If countries are being forced to produce renewable energy then does it not make sense that we develop a sector where we can build thousands of wind turbines or tidal technology? Research has indicated that targeted investment and growth of the renewable sector could potentially create up to 30,000 jobs. Employment opportunities include high tech manufacturing jobs, maintenance jobs at wind power plants and biomass production jobs in the agricultural sector.
“Research and development of renewable energy technology could be a very lucrative sector for Northern Ireland to get further involved in. We have the potential to become world leaders instead of just a follower.
“Focusing on the green economy will not just create jobs and investment but will undoubtedly improve our environment and help cut carbon emissions. The Environment Committee produced a report on climate change in 2009 that had a series of recommendations as to how Northern Ireland should play its part in tackling climate change and the report was agreed by all parties.
“Northern Ireland needs to be serious about achieving better environmental sustainability by ensuring higher energy efficiency in the public sector, improving house insulation and using efficient heating systems to become more efficient in our use of energy resources as well as to help cut the costs of people’s energy bills. Furthermore, we need to encourage the construction sector to build energy-efficient homes so we are less reliant on oil and gas. In the long term the only way we are going to get rid of fuel poverty is by looking at renewable energy and home insulation schemes to bring down fuel bills.
“Sustainability must be at the core of the programme of government and budget.
“Until we see a firm commitment from the Executive to produce a strategy as to how we will develop a green economy, I fear we may miss out on key opportunities I certainly do not think that we will be able to reach the jobs and investments potential that this sector could bring.”
That this Assembly calls on the Executive to make the development of the green economy a priority within the next Programme for Government and to affirm that an overarching strategy for the development of the green economy should be implemented; and further calls on the Executive to bring together existing policies and initiatives, to identify gaps and to address them.