U.S. Water News Online
DUBLIN — Northern Ireland's environment minister has banned British government TV ads on climate change and denounced their energy-saving message as "insidious propaganda."
Sammy Wilson has repeatedly raised eyebrows since winning the environment post in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government last year. The hard-line Protestant, a leading light in the Democratic Unionist Party, argues that global weather patterns are naturally cooling, not warming — and humanity should invest in coping with God-driven climate change, not trying to slow down a man-made problem.
His latest fight is against the central government in London, which funds an "Act on CO2" campaign encouraging citizens to reduce their use of electricity and fossil fuels. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but the Catholic-Protestant coalition in Belfast has autonomy in many areas.
Wilson said the Act on CO2 ads were "giving people the impression that by turning off the standby light on their TV, they could save the world from melting glaciers and being submerged in 40 feet of water."
He said the ads, which have been running on British television stations including in Northern Ireland over the past year, represented "an insidious propaganda campaign" peddling "patent nonsense."
Wilson said he had already written to the British government's Department of Energy and Climate Change warning it not to distribute any more pollution-fighting ads in Northern Ireland.
That London-based agency confirmed it would stop running TV ads in Northern Ireland pending legal advice.
In Northern Ireland's fledgling government, individual ministers control their own policy patch — even when others in the four-party coalition oppose their decisions.
Catholics and Protestants from other parties said Wilson's TV ad ban must win majority backing from the full Northern Ireland Assembly to become legal. Wilson said he did not need any authority but his own.
Wilson won no support from outside his own conservative party, which is Northern Ireland's top vote-getter. Other lawmakers called for his resignation.
Such disputes have been commonplace in Belfast in the power-sharing era — and individual ministers have usually prevailed.
Recently, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, a Catholic, abolished a decades-old academic selection test despite opposition from the Protestant side of the government. Last month, Protestant sports minister Gregory Campbell rejected plans to build a new multi-sports stadium that Catholics particularly wanted.
But Wilson's own party leader, First Minister Peter Robinson, declined to back the environment minister's hostility to energy-saving ads.
During an Assembly debate, Robinson said his colleague had a right to his point of view — but not to contradict official Democratic Unionist policy that backs efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Tommy Gallagher, environment spokesman for a Catholic-backed party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the environment minister was "grandstanding on an extreme and dangerous scale" and "must be held accountable for his maverick posturing."
"It is one thing for Sammy Wilson to hold weird views on climate change or the creation of the world. It is another when he uses his position to pursue causes which are in conflict with the objectives of the department he is supposed to be leading," Gallagher said.
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