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High Level UK Climate Champion Meets with NI Organisations

L>R Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive, Translink & Chair, Business in the Community NI; Vicky Davies, CEO Designate, Danske Bank UK; Nigel Topping UK High Level Climate Action Champion; and Kieran Harding Managing Director BITCNI

On a recent visit to Northern Ireland, COP26 UK High Level Climate Action Champion Nigel Topping sought a meeting with responsible business network Business in the Community (BITC), Danske Bank and Translink to hear how organisations here are addressing the climate crisis and taking action to reduce and offset harmful emissions generated through day-to-day business practices and supply chains.

Mr Topping, alongside his predecessor for COP25 Gonzalo Muñoz, drives two global climate campaigns – Race to Zero and Race to Resilience – which rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

The meeting was arranged as part of a scheduled visit to Northern Ireland where Mr Topping met with Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots, businesses, and local councils to hear how organisations are taking action to address the climate emergency.

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community said: “Addressing climate breakdown and reducing our GHGs and carbon footprint is integral to ensuring a liveable future and in creating new opportunities for business that generate greater prosperity and wellbeing for all.

“Businesses are using this unique point in time to consider how they can build back better from COVID, but we’re asking them to build back responsibly and use the opportunity for bolder, collaborative, and practical action on the climate crisis.”

Over 20 organisations in Northern Ireland have already signed BITC’s Climate Action Pledge, an ambitious public commitment to reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 30% or 50% before 2030.

Mr Harding continued: “BITC provides the guidance, resources and support to meet the targets of the Pledge, proving to communities, stakeholders, customers and employees that businesses are serious about the climate crisis and committed to taking positive action.”

Vicky Davies, CEO designate at Danske Bank said:

“We were delighted to host today’s meeting at our Donegall Square West headquarters. In our own business we have put sustainability and climate change at the top of our agenda and believe NI businesses need to work together to address the climate crisis.

“During the meeting we were pleased to share feedback from a new training programme we co-developed with Business in the Community. The ‘Climate Action Programme with Danske Bank’ is designed to help companies understand their environmental impact and work towards implementing more sustainable business strategies, and is the first initiative of its kind in the UK or Ireland. Six of our corporate customers are currently piloting the programme.”

Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway said: “Translink is leading the transport transformation to zero emission public transport across NI by 2040, taking action to combat the climate emergency, improve air quality and drive positive change for a healthier and more sustainable transport future.  

“We recently introduced three new zero emission hydrogen powered vehicles into our fleet and have a further 100 electric and hydrogen buses on order and due to start arriving later this year; this will be the fourth largest zero emission bus fleet in the UK, marking our commitment to building back responsibly post COVID-19.”

Mr Topping commented: “I am encouraged by the collaborative action being taken by Business in the Community’s Climate Champions and Pledge signatories in Northern Ireland to address the climate crisis.

“Companies here are ambitious about cutting their greenhouse gas emissions and delivering the promise of the Paris Agreement. We urge businesses of all shapes and sizes to join the Race to Zero, and to work together to create a zero carbon world in time.”

To find out more about signing the Climate Action Pledge, visit here or email environment@bitcni.org.uk.

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The Planned Return of Full Vehicle Testing Services

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced that the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is planning to resume full vehicle testing services from 26 July.

In light of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, which has enabled a number of close contact services to resume including driving tests, the DVA has carried out a review of its current vehicle testing processes in order to return to its normal 20 minute test slot for cars and light goods vehicles. Currently, vehicle testing templates are configured for 25 minutes in line with the control measures that were introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

To manage the transition to full service delivery, Temporary Exemption Certificates (TECs) for all qualifying vehicles will be extended by one further month.  New TECs or extensions to existing TECs will be applied automatically to enable vehicles to be taxed and kept on the road.

Minister Mallon said:  “Over recent months the DVA has worked hard to increase its vehicle testing capacity but has been working at a reduced capacity due to the safety measures it introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

“The DVA is taking steps to reinstate its normal vehicle test times from 26 July, which will allow all vehicles to be brought forward for a test. This will be kept under ongoing review depending on the course of the epidemic.

“The DVA is in the process of revising its risk assessments, which will include appropriate mitigation measures, and will engage on them with staff and Trade Union representatives.

“Existing TECs applied to eligible private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years will be extended by a further month from the date the existing exemption ends. Four year old cars and motorcycles and three year old light goods vehicles due a first time test will have a five month TEC applied from the date their first MOT is due.”

Continuing the Minister said:  “Road safety remains a significant priority. I would like to remind owners and drivers of all vehicles that they are responsible under the law for the roadworthiness of their vehicle at all times.  The expectation from the Department, the PSNI and the Association of British Insurers is that motorists continue to service their vehicle and carry out basic checks such as looking out for brake wear, ensuring that all lights are working and regularly checking their tyre pressure and tread depth. 

“As before, extensions to TECs will be added to the DVA system, not issued in hard copy.  For all vehicles with TECs applied, the DVA will issue a reminder notice to the registered keeper of the vehicle before the TEC period ends, with instructions on how to book a test.”

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£17million for Roads Recovery Fund in 2021/22

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced £17million for a Roads Recovery Fund from her 2021/22 capital budget.

Earlier this month the Minister announced her high level budget commitments for the new financial year which included investment of £223.1m in our roads’ network.  The £17m funding for the Roads Recovery Fund will be used to address areas of immediate concern across the road network.    

Minister Mallon said: “Since taking office last year, I have been clear that my priorities include addressing regional imbalance and better connecting communities. This is particularly important when considering the infrastructure associated with rural development.  Our rural areas, including our towns and villages, have a key role to play in supporting economic growth and enhanced rural living.  Connectivity is a key issue for these areas and I recognise the important role that the rural road network plays.

“There has been historical under-investment in the maintenance of our road network for a significant number of years and many rural roads in particular are in need of repairs. In response, I allocated £12 million of my 2020-21 Capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £10 million was specifically directed towards rural roads.

“Following the success of last year’s fund, I am setting up an enhanced fund in 2021-22 and therefore I have allocated £17 million of my capital budget to a Roads Recovery Fund, of which £15 million is specifically directed towards rural roads.

“Rural roads will therefore benefit from a 50% increase in funding in this initiative, reflecting my commitment to continue this important work to benefit rural communities.

“My Department is committed to delivering the best possible services with the funds available. Details of our works programmes will be provided in the reports presented by Divisional Roads Managers to the various District Councils at the forthcoming round of spring meetings.”

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