Guest blog by Ruby Free, Campaigning Communications Officer, RSPB Northern Ireland

It’s that time in the election campaign, Assembly candidates are knocking on doors, asking us to give them our vote!

A puffin amongst sea thrift 

The Northern Ireland Assembly elections are taking place on Thursday 5 May and there has never been a better time to enact change we all need to see. The timeline of the next Assembly term (2022-2027) will take us through this decade towards 2030, when many nature and climate targets are due to be met, so this Assembly mandate could not be more important.

Society is on the cusp of meaningful change and as our recent poll results have shown, a majority of the Northern Ireland population want to see ambitious environmental action from our elected representatives. People are calling for decision makers to step up, we must embrace the monumental shift that is needed to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises.

The power is truly in our hands…

Farmer holding crop with a insect

A ladybug on barley 

In the run up to elections, local candidates and their teams will be canvassing in your area. This is a great time to ask questions and find out the environmental credentials of the candidates who are seeking election.

Candidates want to hear questions from people in their constituencies, and most importantly they want to find out what matters to you.

We have a unique opportunity to ensure Northern Ireland is on a sustainable pathway towards tackling the nature and climate crisis, and to delivering a greener and more prosperous future for everyone.

The nature and climate emergencies are intrinsically linked to other economic and social issues within our society. The Northern Ireland Executive must take decisive actions for the health and wellbeing of our society and planet.

 

Mirroring our manifesto asks, here are 5 key questions you could ask your Assembly candidates:

Family at an RSPB NI nature reserve 

We must ensure future policies and programmes are nature and climate proofed for people and nature. For a nature-rich Northern Ireland, we need the right investment and allocation of public funding. By transitioning away from carbon intensive practices, we can diversify our economy and reverse the huge biodiversity decline Northern Ireland has seen over the last generation.

A bumble bee pollinating a flower 

Restoring our peatlands, taking a tougher stance on wildlife crime, and expanding renewable energy in harmony with nature are just a few of the solutions to help tackle this crisis. Through a nature for climate fund MLAs could deliver a programme of large-scale nature-based projects to help restore nature, tackle climate change, and create jobs.

Stormont, with a foreground of wildflowers 

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time. To help us address this threat to our futures, a new Department for Climate and Minister should be established. This would allow one Minister to provide dedicated focus, to ensure coherence across all departments of the Executive, demonstrating a new urgency to tackle the climate crisis.

Seabird flying across the water surface 

Northern Ireland’s marine and terrestrial habitats are rich in biodiversity but are under threat. For example, our rapidly changing climate and fish decline mean puffins could decline 89% by 2050! To halt and reverse declines in biodiversity, it’s vitally important we have adequate protection in place. To do this, elected MLAs must legislate to protect and restore nature, for example by completing the designation of Marine Protected Areas.

Skylark amongst grass

We must transition to a sustainable land management system that will restore and protect nature, tackle climate change, and produce food and other commodities sustainably. We need the Executive to introduce a new Agriculture Act at the start of the next Assembly. This will set a legal framework for future sustainable farming and land management in Northern Ireland, ensuring a Just Transition and a clearer path to net-zero.

We have to build on the incredible work already underway and build a better, greener and fairer future. By seizing this opportunity to deliver for nature and climate, the Executive can enable Northern Ireland to progress towards a climate-safe, nature-rich future.

COVID-19 has shown us that the Northern Ireland Executive can take quick and decisive action in the face of an emergency.

Now, more than ever, we need the Executive to deploy the same will, collaboration and determination to tackle the climate and nature crisis.

We must see ambitious plans and practical solutions showcased by our candidates, as outlined in RSPB NI’s Manifesto for Nature, that we have asked our supporters to sending to their local election candidates, to ensure key issues affecting nature and climate are addressed in this election, and in the next Assembly term. If you haven’t already participated in our quick yet powerful e-action, please take action now.

Let’s speak up for nature’s disappearing voice and use this opportunity to call for a sustainable future we can all be proud of.

To find out more about how nature and climate can be prioritised the Northern Ireland elections and how you can make a difference, contact ni.campaigns@rspb.org.uk

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