Question Time: Environment Monday 09 March 2015

Environment Minister, Mark Durkan, was asked if his Department will be responding to the consultation on the review of the EU emissions trading system during today’s Question Time. The EU emissions trading system has been a cornerstone of the European Union's policy to combat climate change. The review is being undertaken as a result of the agreement on the 2030 framework for climate and energy, which contains a revised target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Mr Durkan believes “a robust and reformed emissions trading system can play a significant part in reducing greenhouse gases at minimum cost, and will also contribute towards achieving our Programme for Government target of a reduction in emissions of 35% by 2025.” The Minister remains in contact with his colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the trading system and the review. Upon receiving their advice he will then provide a response to the consultation.

During topical questions, Stewart Dickson asked the Minister if he expects to meet his budget commitments given that he expects to lose a third of his staff as a result of the Voluntary Exit Scheme. The Minister lamented that “my Department has been hit harder than any other. In order for my Department to continue its service as it has done up until this point, we would require somewhere in the region of 500 people to leave their posts.” Mr Durkan added that “it is vital that we concentrate on delivering the same level of service, ensuring the protection and promotion of the environment, albeit with what will inevitably be a reduced workforce. It remains to be seen whether it will be reduced by the requisite number.” The Minister has not budgeted with the expectation of losing staff – there will be no compulsory redundancies – but any money saved as a result of the Voluntary Exit Scheme will be put towards continuing to provide the functions and services of the Department.

Throughout the oral question time period, the Minister also answered questions on waste collection, local government regulations, burning of tyres and the renewal of taxi driver licences.

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