Political leaders address all-island climate change event in Belfast

8th Oct 2021

The First and deputy First Ministers were joined by An Taoiseach in Belfast today (8 October 2021) to share their approaches to climate action ahead of the COP26 summit.

Co-hosted by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and Chambers Ireland with the support of SSE, the all-island event discussed what global agreement on climate action means for companies across the island of Ireland and highlighted the ‘green’ opportunities which exist for local firms.

Addressing an audience of business leaders, First Minister Paul Givan said:

“As we gather today, our united promise to the next generations must be to do all that we can to preserve their future home. As First Minister I make that pledge.

“That to make this a reality and not just a wish, takes the whole community.

“This involves government, businesses, civic society and people, young and old. Let’s Power Change Together.

“A commitment to collaboration is the cornerstone of the Executive’s strategic response on Climate Change. And we are setting ourselves tough, but we believe achievable, targets.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added:

“Colossal changes are occurring all around us. The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt right across the world. This is an emergency situation and it calls for emergency action.

“We have a small window of opportunity to do something. And we simply can’t afford to be outliers. It needs real leadership, from all parts of society.
“The fact that the heads of government – north and south – are here today to discuss climate change is a mark of both the seriousness of the situation and also our commitment to tackling it.”

Speaking in Belfast, Taoiseach Micheál Martin commented:

“There is no more significant and common concern for us on this island, and across these islands, than meeting the generational challenge of climate change. I am particularly pleased to speak at today’s event, alongside the First Minister and deputy First Minister. To be fully effective on climate action we need joined-up policy approaches and coordinated investment on a cross-border basis. The Irish Government is fully committed to this, clearly demonstrated by the significant investment we announced this week in our new National Development Plan.”

Political leaders were joined on stage by a panel of businesspeople, as well as senior figures from the two leading business membership organisations. 

Outlining the significance of the event, Paul Murnaghan, President of NI Chamber said:

“Today is a significant day for climate action on the island of Ireland, as we bring the most senior politicians, North and South, under one roof to look seriously at how we all can contribute to the creation of a more sustainable region, island and global community.

“The gravity of the situation that we face is highlighted by the fact that today the leaders of the governments at Stormont and Dail Eireann have come to address business leaders in person. By doing so, they are sending a very powerful message to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – that climate change matters, that we here have a role in bringing forward climate solutions and that the time for action is now.

“This morning’s event is an exciting opportunity to map out just where this island stands in the climate change fight-back, and to begin to chart a way forward which we can all sign up to – the business community, political representatives and wider civic society.”

Ian Talbot, Chief Executive, Chambers Ireland added:  

“Tackling the challenges of climate change will drive innovation. The novel problems that we are encountering are driving research and development into the new technologies that will support our communities, our societies, and our economies.

“Our shared island is likely to be one of the most significant beneficiaries of the new renewable energy technologies that are being developed. Technologies such as hydrogen and offshore wind, and wave generation are set to transform energy supply on this island.

“Businesses across the island will be central to delivering the projects that will apply this new scientific and technical knowledge to the real-world challenges that we are encountering, and there is enormous appetite globally for investing in these technologies. We have both the natural resources and available capital to transform this island into a net energy exporter.”

Martin Pibworth, Group Energy and Commercial Director, SEE also addressed attendees, saying:

“SSE are extremely proud to partner with the NI Chamber and Chambers Ireland for today’s event. It’s great to see the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland and An Taoiseach here together, showing collective leadership in meeting the urgent Net Zero challenge. This urgency is why SSE became a principal partner of COP26 to be held in Glasgow next month. We stand ready to play our part by providing expertise and action through the delivery of renewable energy and renewable energy solutions.”