Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Quit call over blocked green ad

government advert
Mr Wilson said the message of the adverts was "patent nonsense"

A Northern Ireland minister's decision to block a government advertisement campaign on climate change has led to a call for his removal from office.

The advertisements urged people to reduce energy consumption and cut carbon dioxide output.

But Environment Minister Sammy Wilson claimed the adverts were part of an "insidious propaganda campaign".

Calling for his removal, the Green Party said Mr Wilson made "a laughing stock out of Northern Ireland."

Sammy Wilson argued that the Scottish executive had objected and stopped the adverts being broadcast. However, the Scottish executive told the BBC the reason it did not run these adverts was because they are already running their own climate change adverts.

He argued that they 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 40ft of water".

He said that was "patent nonsense".

Mr Wilson said he had written to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to say that the advertising campaign Act on CO2 "was not welcome".

He explained that he did not believe in its message that "man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change" and that the campaign was contrary to his personal views.

This is totally incompatible with him being minister for the environment
Brian Wilson, Green Party

He told DECC: "I do not wish for climate change messages to be promoted by other Whitehall departments here".

But Brian Wilson, of the Green Party, said the environment minister should be removed from office for refusing to recognise climate change.

"He is a climate change sceptic. We have got to take all measures we can to reduce our carbon footprint. Mr Wilson does not agree with that.

"This is totally incompatible with him being minister for the environment," he said.

Friends of the Earth NI director John Woods said: "It's bad enough that we have an environment minister who doesn't accept that human activity is driving climate change, but trying to block advice to people on how they can help tackle it is completely irresponsible.

"The reality is that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that our activities are causing global warming and that urgent action is needed to tackle it."

The Alliance Party and the SDLP have also criticised Mr Wilson's decision.

Alliance leader David Ford said: "The simple fact is that there is scientific evidence, accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists, that manmade climate change will affect our environment if it is not brought under control," he said.

Sammy Wilson
The DUP's Sammy Wilson has objected to the government campaign

Tommy Gallagher, SDLP, accused Mr Wilson of "political sabotage of an important public awareness campaign".

"We need all the awareness campaigns we can get on this issue, and in particular we need to ensure that efforts to combat climate change do not become victims of the downturn. The minister must be held accountable for his maverick posturing," he said.

Northern Ireland's first minister and party colleague, Peter Robinson, told the Assembly that Mr Wilson was entitled to his opinions, although they did not reflect those of the DUP as a whole.

"He has provoked a debate in Northern Ireland which I suspect would not have taken place had he not made the comments, and every individual must be entitled to their view on the issue.

"However, the view of the Democratic Unionist Party is on record and is in our manifesto, and it is that view that we will uphold at the Executive."

BBC Northern Ireland environment correspondent Mike McKimm said: "Mr Wilson has also advised Whitehall that such messages can only be promoted in Northern Ireland with his permission and he wants to see what he terms 'postcode lockouts' used to prevent them 'leaking' into that part of the UK.

"He also told the DECC that this applies to specific organisations licensed to use the "Act on CO2" brand, including the Carbon Trust.

"Mr Wilson's departmental website says it takes a lead on climate change issues.

Emissions

"His own political party manifesto also makes similar claims: 'The DUP has... called for year-on-year targets in order to achieve reduced Carbon emissions.' (DUP 2007).

Commenting on Mr Wilson's approach to climate change and its Act on CO2 campaign, the DECC told the BBC that human behaviour causes climate change.

They said their commitment to this campaign was guided by the "best science, the most up-to-date information and the evidence... the only way we can tackle it is by working together".



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