Belfast Telegraph

Beautiful scenery can no longer be taken for granted, warns environment chief

David Small’s warning came as a discussion document is launched to draft Northern Ireland’s first environment strategy.

Volunteers help clean up rubbish around the coastline of the Giant’s Causeway (Liam McBurney/PA)
Volunteers help clean up rubbish around the coastline of the Giant’s Causeway (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Rebecca Black, PA

It is time for action in Northern Ireland to protect the environment, a senior civil servant has warned.

David Small, who heads up the Northern Ireland’s Environment Agency (NIEA), was speaking at the launch of a discussion document to formulate the region’s first environment strategy.

“Addressing climate change, becoming carbon neutral, tackling plastic pollution and achieving zero waste are essential measures to safeguard our environment,” he said.

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Volunteers haul rubbish from a boat at Ballintoy Harbour during a litter pick around the coastline of the Giant’s Causeway earlier this year (Liam McBurney/PA)

“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 has urged people to take part in the process to help shape a future long-term strategy.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs will publish a summary of the findings before drafting the Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland in early 2020.

However the strategy will need approval from a future minister or Executive.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been collapsed for more than two-and-a-half years following a breakdown in relations between leading parties the DUP and Sinn Fein in January 2017.

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

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

PA

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