Northern Ireland Assembly, Monday 05 October 2010
I support the motion and the amendment. I am delighted to see such unanimity in the Chamber today.
The Green Party has been a long-standing supporter of the green new deal. Indeed, it was a supporter long before the green new deal group was set up, and our party manifesto for the 2009 European election was titled ‘A Green New Deal for Europe’. That was a common manifesto with 27 other Green parties throughout the European Union, and it highlighted how the green economy had created thousands of jobs in many European countries, particularly in Germany, Denmark and Spain. In Germany alone, 250,000 jobs have been created. We argued that, on the basis of the experiences of those countries, we could create five million green-collar jobs throughout the European Union. It is clear that many voters recognised the potential of green jobs, with the Green Party achieving its greatest success, returning 53 MEPs and, locally, our candidate, Steven Agnew, tripling the green vote.
I launched that manifesto at Harland and Wolff to highlight how that company was reaping the benefits of new green technology. The company, which was at the forefront of the industrial revolution, is now at the forefront of a new green revolution and is adapting traditional local skills in construction and engineering to promote the new green economy. Since then, Harland and Wolff has expanded its involvement in the green economy, and I congratulate it on its recent announcement of a £10 million contract to construct 30 huge wind turbines and a multimillion pound contract to design and build two platforms for an offshore wind development. Those will provide more much-needed jobs.
Harland and Wolff has been one of the few good news stories during the recession, and that is clearly due to its foresight in entering the ever-expanding green economy as well as its expertise and facilities, which are unique. It is an example of the green new deal in action. It is not enough to say that we are focusing on the economy. We must focus our energy and investment on the new technologies that are required to help us to move to a low-carbon economy that is not reliant on imported fossil fuels but is based instead on sustainable forms of energy, transport and food production. A success story such as Harland and Wolff should not be an isolated incident: it must become a common occurrence. Fossil fuels are running out, but Northern Ireland, with its natural resources of wind and wave, can become a world leader in green energy.
Another green success is the 150 new jobs that solar energy firm Kingspan Renewables created. It bought Thermomax, which was based in Bangor and which we were very supportive of. That is where we should be targeting investment, and that example demonstrates the potential of new jobs in the green economy. We have been pointing that out for many years with perhaps somewhat limited success.
Our targets for renewable energy should be more ambitious. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has increased Scotland’s targets for renewables to 80% by 2020, and the Welsh Assembly recently announced that its share from renewables will increase by 200% by 2020. There is potential for growth, and we should expand our renewables targets and exports. Those are ambitious targets, but with our natural resources and the support of the Executive, we can achieve similar targets.
Unfortunately, the record to date shows that the Assembly has not fully grasped the green new deal. For example, we had a situation some years ago where DETI stopped funding the Reconnect grants for the development of renewable energy and small microgeneration systems as well as the Renewable Energy Installer Academy that trained people to work the installers. That was very short-sighted.
I also refer to the Programme for Government. We are talking about sustainability —
There is a proposal from Westminster to scrap the Sustainable Development Commission. I appeal to the Executive to fund that commission even though it may not be funded by Westminster.