Controversy over North-South Interconnector and climate change continues

  • Photo: Chris Stark, CEO of the Committee on Climate Change

    The government’s chief adviser on climate change last week called on politicians to unite in their support of key infrastructure projects as part of the UK’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

    Chris Stark, CEO of the Committee on Climate Change addressed a webinar of over 100 business leaders across Northern Ireland.

    He said that infrastructure projects could help Northern Ireland play a “critical role” in the achievement of the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

    This includes the North-South Interconnector project, which has been in planning for a decade but is awaiting final approval from the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

    The Committee on Climate Change claimed that in addition to improving security of supply and reducing energy costs for consumer, the interconnector will enable the connection of 900MW of renewable generation - enough to power around 600,000 homes.

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    In June, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the project, which involves building new overhead pylons between the border and Co Meath, has already been given the go-ahead in the Republic of Ireland.

    SONI, the Electricity System Operator for Northern Ireland is managing the scheme’s behalf in Northern Ireland, which involves a 34km overhead power line on 102 towers stretching from Moy in Co Tyrone to the south Armagh border.

    Civil servants within the Department for Infrastructure had approved plans for the project, but the High Court scuppered the decision last year as 6,000 letters of objection were lodged, mostly from landowners in Tyrone and Armagh.

    Two days ago, Minister Mallon hosted an NI roundtable as part of United Nations Climate Change Conference.

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    She did not directly address the North-South Interconnector, but said tackling climate change has been one of her key priorities since taking her ministerial role, focusing on transport: “The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have introduced additional challenges, for example, in how we balance the promotion of sustainable modes of transport whilst ensuring the health and wellbeing of our people.

    “But it has also presented opportunities as demonstrated for example, by the work my Department has been doing to accelerate actions that promote active travel as a safe and ‘carbon free’ alternative form of transport.”

    Minister Mallon added that she herself has switched to an e-car and is encouraging others to do the same, or to avail more of public transport.

    She concluded: “This is about leadership from politics to the community.  We all need to be green champions.

    “The need to act now has been recognised in the New Decade, New Approach deal and we all have a commitment to act. I would like to see targets focused on delivery by 2030 – these ambitious targets have already been set by the EU and I want to work collectively to see the Executive move faster.”

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    Speaking in the climate change webinar that took place a week prior to Minister Mallon’s comments, Chris Stark said:

    “As businesses enter recovery mode following the COVID-19 peak, there are major economic opportunities from the transition to zero carbon.

    “We need a unifying vision and strong leadership from the politicians – and the support of the business community and consumers in Northern Ireland.

    “Northern Ireland is playing catch up on climate, so proactive leadership is needed, including investment in the critical infrastructure to support a low carbon transition for power generation, heat supply and transport.”

    The Committee on Climate Change provides advice and oversight to central government and the devolved administrations on tackling and preparing for climate change.

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    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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