Bold and decisive action needed in 2024 to restore our natural environment, says Blair

Alliance Agriculture and Environment spokesperson John Blair MLA has called for 2024 to be the year we make significant strides in restoring and protecting our natural world, in the interest, quite literally, of the air that we breathe and the water we drink.

Environment John Blair Agriculture

He listed three main areas of focus, including environmental recovery, marine and waterways protection, and waste management.


The South Antrim MLA has said: “In terms of environmental recovery our species populations, habitats, and ecosystems are currently in a devastating condition. A recent RSPB report clearly states that 12% of species in Northern Ireland are being threatened with extinction, and around half of our protected areas are in an unfavourable condition.


“Ambitious, long-term plans and concrete actions that aim to reverse the damage to our natural environment must feature heavily on agendas within every level of government, such as the proposals put for forward by Alliance in its Green New Deal for example. These include promoting biodiversity by assisting in the planting of trees and the restoration and preservation of peat bogs, and supporting land managers' transition to alternative land uses.


“We are also tackling an ecological crisis at Lough Neagh and other waterways across Northern Ireland. The importance of protecting, restoring, and properly managing these resources cannot be understated, in terms of safeguarding our biodiversity, tourism, recreation, fishing, culture and even our drinking water.


“I will continue to call for urgent movement from DAERA on long-awaited marine-based strategies, such as the Marine Protected Area Strategy, as well as stand alongside Alliance colleagues to pursue the delivery of our previously published 5 Point Plan for Lough Neagh. This includes a particular focus on the establishment of an independent Environmental Protection Agency, something which all parties have previously committed to in New Decade New Approach.


“In turn, when it comes to waste management, it will be no surprise when I say Northern Ireland needs to catch up when maximising recycling opportunities. Meeting the target of 70% recycled by 2030 is vital to protecting our environment, ending our over-reliance on landfill sites, and protecting species and habitats.


“I will continue to pressure DAERA on their progress in publishing the Waste Management Strategy, as critical deadlines have yet to be met. However, we all have a role to play here and every one of us must be conscious of our waste habits.


“In this new year, we must take bold and decisive action in securing a better future for our natural world, and every policy and practice must be viewed and assessed directly through the lens of its potential impact on the climate and our environment. Undoubtedly however, meaningful action can only be taken through working together, within functioning government institutions, to protect our natural environment and drive the restoration of species and habitats.”