We want your big ideas to protect the Northern Ireland environment, says agency
The public has been asked for its "big ideas" on how to protect the earth as part of Northern Ireland's first environmental strategy.
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, David Small, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, has called for "home-grown solutions" for the new initiative.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that here in Northern Ireland our environment - our most precious natural resource - is endangered," he said.
"If we don't take essential action now, every aspect of it is threatened - the land we walk on, the air we breathe and the water we drink."
He cited the major threats to the environment as industrial, agricultural and domestic pollution, as well as waste, plastic pollution and climate change.
Mr Small said: "It's all too easy to brush it off as a global problem that needs solutions that are often far too big and far too complex for us to make any kind of meaningful difference. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
"It is actually a very real and overwhelming local problem which calls for fundamental, home-grown solutions." Citing environmental campaigners like Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, he said all people had a duty to "protect, enhance and treasure our priceless landscape" which supported many parts of the economy from food and farming to forestry, tourism and energy.
The current environmental performance in Northern Ireland, he added, was "something of a mixed bag".
Positive steps so far have included the introduction of Prosperity Agreements with businesses and industry, the success of the plastic bag tax, and increased rates of household waste recycling.
More "challenging" areas have been the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality and ammonia emissions.
Mr Small explained: "Northern Ireland has never had an all-encompassing environmental strategy so we are very keen to ensure our plans accurately reflect what it is we all want to achieve for this and future generations."
He added the hope was to bring a greater focus to the "patchwork" of existing environmental policies which focused on issues like water and air quality, biodiversity and climate change.