Over recent weeks, the Northern Ireland Executive have started to implement plans for the country’s Roadmap to Recovery, outlining how to emerge from lockdown and re-start the economy. The decisions made by the Northern Ireland Executive now, will have lasting impacts on our natural environment.

Belfast Lough RSPB NI reserve by Oliver Bernard
Belfast Lough RSPB NI reserve. Photo credit: Oliver Bernard

That’s why RSPB NI, alongside 40 signatories from environmental and community organisations, businesses, academics and campaigners, have written an open letter to the First Minister and deputy First Minister, calling for a resilient economy, healthy communities and a thriving natural environment to be at the heart of the recovery effort.

Read the letter in full, below.

The First Minister and deputy First Minister
Northern Ireland Assembly
Parliament Buildings

Tuesday 26th May 2020

Dear First Minister and deputy First Minister,

Re: A Resilient Economy, Healthy Communities and the Natural World

We understand that the Covid19 response and ongoing negotiations regarding Brexit are immediate priorities for the Northern Ireland Executive. With this in mind, the Northern Ireland Executive has the opportunity to lead our long-term recovery by putting a resilient economy, healthy communities, and a thriving natural environment at the heart of the recovery effort. We, the undersigned, call on the Northern Ireland Executive to:

Create A More Resilient Economy – In partnership with stakeholders, develop and deliver the ‘green new deal’ commitment contained within the ‘New Decade New Approach’ agreement by investing in infrastructure, housing, technology and skills to generate new jobs that directly contribute to a sustainable future. Ensure that public and private finance meets a ‘net zero test’ and prioritise investment in low carbon infrastructure. We must now mainstream cycling, walking and sustainable public transport infrastructure to realise additional health, wellbeing and environmental benefits.

Increase Space for Nature and People - Place the health and wellbeing of people and nature at the heart of the recovery by increasing access to nature-rich green space for everyone.  Enhanced access to, and improved provision of high-quality green space, is an essential pre-requisite for good health (physical and mental), wellbeing and prosperity. We must capitalise on these natural health benefits by introducing measures that will enable people and nature to flourish.  For example, in planning for our children and young people returning to school, we ask that the multiple benefits of outdoor learning become an integral part of daily school life.  

Strengthen Nature’s Protections – Improve the laws that ensure the natural world is protected not exploited by ensuring the swift passage of environmental legislation as we leave the EU Transition phase. Rapidly scale up the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of our environmental protections by delivering on the commitment to develop an Independent Environmental Protection Agency for Northern Ireland. We must also introduce targets in law for the restoration of nature (both on land and at sea) and incentivise sustainable approaches to food production, farming and fishing, underpinned by the Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland.

This public health crisis has shown us the power of the collective human spirit - the value of community, friendship, and hope. There will be difficult choices in the weeks and months ahead as the Northern Ireland Executive leads us out of this crisis. In doing so, we ask you to create something better and lead us to a new normal: a climate-safe, nature-rich, healthy world for all.

We would ask the Northern Ireland Executive to respond to our asks above and would welcome the opportunity to meet you to discuss - alongside Northern Ireland Executive colleagues and heads of agencies. In the meantime, we wish you all the best with the recovery efforts over the coming weeks and months.

Yours Sincerely

Action Renewables
Belfast Food Co-op
Belfast Food Network
Brookeville Farms
Business in the Community
Chartered Institute for Environmental Health
Chief Officers Third Sector
Community Foundation for Northern Ireland
Culmore Organic Farm
East Belfast Enterprise
Environmental Justice Network
Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland
Glasswater Farm
Harvest Fayre
Helen’s Bay Organic
Jubilee Farm
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful
Mourne Heritage Trust
National Trust Northern Ireland
Nature Friendly Farming Network
Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action
Northern Ireland Environment Link
Northern Ireland Marine Task Force
Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland
RSA Food and Farming Commission
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Northern Ireland
Royal Society of Ulster Architects
Social Farms and Gardens Northern Ireland
Something Fishy Northern Ireland
Sustainable Northern Ireland
Ulster Wildlife
Woodland Trust Northern Ireland
Youth Climate Association of Northern Ireland
Dara McAnulty, young nature writer and campaigner
Doctor Amanda Slevin, Queen’s University Belfast
Doctor Gavan Rafferty, University of Ulster
Professor Geraint Ellis, Queen’s University Belfast
James Dawson Stelfox MBE, architect
Professor John Barry, Queen’s University Belfast
Simon Dougan MBE, Yellow Door
Logos of signatories who signed open letter in support of a green recovery