The green economy has a “vitally important” role to play in the Covid recovery, a nature charity has said.
RSPB NI has devised a five-point plan for the Northern Ireland Executive which includes a call for new legislation to tackle the climate and nature crises.
It also calls for a commitment to a green recovery from ministers, to reform strategic government policy, deliver a Green New Deal and invest in nature to support healthier communities.
The RSPB said a recent poll in Northern Ireland showed that 74% of respondents now want new laws to protect nature and urged the introduction of a Northern Ireland Climate Change Act with a net zero carbon target and binding sectoral targets.
It has also called for a Northern Ireland environment strategy.
The charity said it has a list of “ready-to-go” projects which offer an opportunity to create jobs, start to halt and reverse biodiversity declines, and begin a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
It said a wider work programme that builds on these projects could collectively provide 2,000 jobs across the region, lock up carbon with a value of well over £1 billion and provide widespread economic benefits.
RSPB NI director Joanne Sherwood said decisions taken now will have an impact for years to come.
“We need to seize this opportunity to deliver a green recovery and build a more resilient economy, with healthy communities and a thriving natural world at its heart,” she said.
“Delivering on each of the five points we’re proposing in the green recovery plan will bring vital employment opportunities.
“Decisions taken now will have a major impact for many years to come, so we must embrace the idea of a green recovery and lay the foundations for the greater prosperity and improved wellbeing of Northern Ireland and our future generations.”