Wednesday 18 September 2019 01:03:21 AM

NIEA Boss Calls For Radical Action Now – Or Else!
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It should be a no brainer – do you want the planet to burn up to a crisp OR do you want to take what steps are necessary to save our environment from destruction?

There is no starker question I could ask you on a quiet, midweek day as the world is gradually imploding around us! Don’t be fooled by the noise on TV. The reality of your kid’s future lies beyond the blinding glare of your TV screen.

The message from our own local Northern Ireland Environmental Agency is clear and simple… time is running out to protect our endangered environment warns the NIEA chief.

If we don’t take radical action now to protect our environment, then every aspect of it is threatened, the head of Northern Ireland’s Environment Agency (NIEA) has sternly warned.

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Work ongoing: NIEA’s Freshwater Ecologist Andrew Doran checks out good and bad bugs from a kick sample from a local river. The abundance of good bugs such as the Stonefly or Mayfly, which are less tolerant to pollution, are used as an indicator of water quality – an essential part of a healthy environment. (Photo Gillian McKeown).

David Small has ignited a public debate on how we can enhance and protect our environment by launching a discussion document asking the public to help the NIEA draft Northern Ireland’s first ever Environment Strategy. And it should be noted that we at this moment don’t have an Environmental Agency to co-ordinate such a strategy!!

Mr Small warned: “Addressing climate change, becoming carbon neutral, tackling plastic pollution and achieving zero waste are essential measures to safeguard our environment.

“In Northern Ireland our beautiful landscape is our most important asset but we can no longer afford to take clear air, good water quality and green and blues spaces for granted.

“Our precious environment is an essential part of our economy, supporting many of our industries, from food and farming to fishing, forestry, tourism and energy. It’s part of our global marketing strategies. It’s part of our DNA.

“It’s now time-critical to protect this vital natural resource with ambitious, inspiring and targeted actions that keep it at the very heart of what we all do. There is no alternative than to act now, time is running out and standing still is not an option – there is no Planet B.

Mr Small, is also Head of Environment, Marine and Fisheries within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and is a leading voice in local government and should be headed.

He added that big challenges need big ideas, so today DAERA, with the help of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (KNIB), young people from both Belfast Hills Partnership and Ulster Wildlife and volunteers from Ligoniel Improvement Association, are kick-starting an extensive public debate on the issue.

David Small urged everyone to take part as their feedback will help shape a future long-term strategy.

He added: “We want the public to help us identify the solutions to protect, preserve and enhance our environment and are very keen to ensure our plans accurately reflect what it is we all want to achieve for this and future generations.”

Dr Sue Christie OBE from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “We know the problems, and we know they are serious.  We’re drowning in rubbish, killing off species and destroying habitats at an unprecedented rate and facing climate catastrophe in just ten years. But we also know the solutions – a few major changes can halt all of these problems and pave the way to a truly remarkable future.

“What’s missing is the public will to change and the political drive to assist and support that change. This strategy offers an opportunity to start making these changes, and to make Northern Ireland a global leader in addressing environmental challenges.  Have your say – show that you care.”

Gillian McKee, Deputy Managing Director of Business in the Community, also said: “We welcome any move towards creating a strategy for a better environment in Northern Ireland. There is extensive evidence to show a positive link between green spaces and good mental health and we would hope that this would be a key impact to which the strategy would aspire.

“In addition, we would be strongly encouraging DAERA to consider the impact business has on our environment and the potential for a strategy to set bold targets towards addressing climate change – targets that all sectors in our society can work together to achieve.”

It is intended that the Environment Strategy will sit alongside other Executive strategies such as the sustainable development, economic and public health strategies, but they will be tools for action to save the environment, and not gather dust in a cupboard while the planet heats up.

DAERA will publish a summary of the findings before drafting the “Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland” in early 2020. The Strategy is intended to be high level and will require endorsement from a future Minister and Executive. But it needs feedback from people across County Down and beyond.

The public discussion is open for 14 weeks and will close on 23 December 2019.

You can take part online at: http://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/daera-neq/esni

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The document has four themes:

  • Environmental Engagement – is about connection such as how the public, business and industry connect and engage with the environment and DAERA. It will include education, public awareness and technology.
  • Environmental Prosperity – is about the value of the environment in economic terms, both directly and indirectly and extends to topics such as tourism, leisure activities and agri-food.
  • Environmental Efficiency – looks at closely related “big picture” issues such as climate action; resource efficiency; circular with the aim of achieving sustainable production and consumption.
  • Environmental Quality – the protection and enhancement of all aspects of our environment including air, water, biodiversity, noise and land. This theme is intended to focus on the benefits of health & well-being, environmental justice, and economic prosperity.