Film: ACT NOW! The race to get a Climate Act for Northern Ireland

People power played a vital role in securing climate change legislation for Northern Ireland. Watch our film about the race to get a Climate Act.
  Published:  07 Mar 2024    |      2 minute read

How we achieved a Climate Change Act for Northern Ireland

This is the story of how Northern Ireland’s first climate law started with a conversation in a café. It’s the story of how ordinary people stepped in to write the legislation when the minister responsible refused. And it’s the story of how these activists gained political support for the Climate Act and forced Northern Ireland to stop being a climate laggard.

As part of the Climate Coalition Northern Ireland, which is a coalition of NGOs, academics and legal experts, Friends of the Earth played a leading role in drafting Northern Ireland’s first climate change law. Thanks to community campaigning, Northern Ireland’s Climate Change Act passed into law in June 2022. The bill holds Northern Ireland to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It also includes 2030 and 2040 interim targets, as well as provisions for carbon budgets, climate action plans, a Climate Commissioner, a Just Transition Commission, and a Just Transition Fund for agriculture.

A large crowd stands outside Stormont with big letters saying "Net Zero Now"
Climate Change Act rally at Stormont
Credit: Press Eye Photography

But while the win was a huge grassroots success, it was still hugely complicated and controversial. What really happened during the unprecedented 2-bill race, before the Climate Change Bill (the amended second bill) gained Royal Assent? We’re about to take you behind the scenes…

Watch the film

“ACT NOW! The race to get a Climate Act for Northern Ireland” portrays the indispensable work of climate activism. When the government said no, climate campaigners quite literally rolled up their sleeves and wrote their own law. It proves that even when we encounter adversity and are blocked by decision makers, there’s still so much we can do and achieve for people and planet.

What’s next for Northern Ireland?

We want to share our story far and wide to help encourage more climate action. Similar campaigns for climate change laws are underway in Eastern Europe, so we hope the film will help provide some inspiration. Several requests have also been made for this film to be shown across the island of Ireland, for example at festivals, and we're keen to share it with our political parties as well. Keep an eye on our events page for future public screenings.

Now that we have a Climate Act, we need to hold the Northern Ireland Assembly to account. Friends of the Earth with the Climate Coalition Northern Ireland will ensure that the law we initially wrote, campaigned for and worked so hard to achieve is being implemented in practice. We’re watching closely to see if crucial deadlines are being met and key actions are being delivered. We're also determined to get an Independent Environment Protection Agency established, as was promised in 2020. So there’s still plenty of work to be done.