Question Time: Environment 20 January 2015

What steps will the Department of the Environment be taking to tackle the threat of climate change? Fearghal McKinney was keen to find out what preparations Minister Mark Durkan is taking to tackle the problem during today’s Question Time. Mr Durkan assured that “I am fully committed to working across government and with all sectors of our society to agree on measures that can help to address current and future climate change.” The cross-departmental working group on climate change (chaired by the Minister himself) is carrying out key actions such as “continuing to develop and implement the EU emissions trading scheme and the carbon reduction commitment, which aim to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the organisations that use most energy; introducing waste policies and strategies and providing support to local authorities to help to achieve much higher recycling rates, which will reduce emissions from landfill sites; changes to planning policy to ensure that planning decisions take account of climate change impacts before any development is approved; and the use of voluntary prosperity agreements with strategic organisations that explore novel ways to work together to deliver economic and environmental benefits.”

Dominic Bradley also enquired about the latest developments on the transfer of planning to local government. The programme is on track for completion on 1 April 2015. Consultations, advice, training and guidance are nearing completion and the Department has taken steps to ensure that the necessary systems and structures are in place for the successful transfer of planning functions. There is still work to be done but the Department is working closely with the local government sector to do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.

During topical questions Mr Durkan also fielded questions on the cost of transfer of functions to councils, rate convergence and the impact of the 2015-16 budget on the Department.

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