Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

People show high concern at eco issues

Our politicians aren't known as the sharpist when it comes to protecting the environment - but the man on the street is worried.

In fact, Ulster people are more concerned about climate change than the rest of the UK, according to WWF Northern Ireland.

A survey revealed that concern about the state of the environment has also rocketed in Northern Ireland over the past couple of years.

More than 1,000 local people took part in the 'Climate change: What Northern Ireland really thinks' IPSO MORI survey conducted for WWF.

The report said: " There has been a sharp increase in the proportion of people who think that human activity is damaging the environment.

"There is an increased willingness to do something about environmental problems. The proportion of respondents who say they are definitely prepared to take steps to live more sustainably has more than doubled in the past two years."

Nine in 10 people agreed that the world's climate is changing and 87% expressed some willingness to make lifestyle changes to reduce environmental damage.

Eight in 10 (82%) said they frequently switched off lights when they didn't need them and 37% of car drivers said they had made some effort to use alternatives to the car over the past year. This compares to just 12% in a 2000 NI Life & Times survey.

Geoff Nuttall, head of WWF Northern Ireland, said: "This survey shows how climate change and environmental issues have moved up in the consciousness of the general public. It would appear that people are taking steps to reduce their ecological footprint - their impact on the planet."

People in Northern Ireland are more likely than in the UK as a whole to see business and industry as having the potential to tackle climate change. They also see the UK Government as having more influence than the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"It's interesting that out of business, UK Government and the Assembly, people believe that the Assembly has the least influence to tackle climate change," Mr Nuttall said.

" Perhaps that's because the Assembly seems happy to follow the UK on environmental policy, instead of making local decisions on issues such as CO2 emissions targets. Surely this survey should act as a trigger and mandate for Government to be bold when it comes to the environment."

June Mallon from Newtownabbey said: "I'm a strong believer that we are causing serious damage to the world's climate system. When I was a child, there were distinctive and predictable seasons. Now, spring's coming earlier and earlier and it's hard to tell the seasons apart."

And Fiona MacMillan from Belfast said: "As an individual, you have to take responsibility. It's a bit pointless saying that the Government should be doing more about climate change if you're not prepared to take steps as an individual. The Government is only taking action because people themselves are making changes."

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