Legality of Sammy Wilson’s climate ad stance under question

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is investigating whether the Northern Ireland environment minister’s refusal to pay for the "Act On CO2 " advertising campaign in the province is legal.

Sammy Wilson, who frequently questions whether humankind has an impact on the climate, has refused to finance advertisements on TV and radio stations, labelling them "insidious propaganda". He claimed the ads were "giving people the impression that by turning off the standby light on their TV they could save the world from melting".

But questions have been raised as to whether the Minister has the power to block UK government advertising campaigns.

Energy and climate secretary Ed Miliband told ENDS: "We’ve written letters and made it clear where we stand." On Mr Wilson’s views on climate change, he said: "I don’t agree with him, put it that way."

Queen’s University in Belfast, which has its own radio station, had decided to carry the advertisements, regardless. It has contacted Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Agency and both have said it is entitled to run the campaign.

Mr Wilson’s stance prompted calls for his resignation from the province’s environmental bodies and the environment committee of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly.

Six elected members of the assembly (MLAs) from the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein voted for a motion of no confidence. Four DUP MLAs voted against.

The committee has written to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive to seek clarification on the Executive’s climate change policy. Green Party MLA Brian Wilson is now pushing for a motion of no confidence in Mr Wilson, an MLA and a Westminster MP, to go before the whole assembly.

Meanwhile, the Environment Committee is conducting an inquiry on climate change to consider what actions the province should commit to and the costs of action compared to the cost of doing nothing.

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