Investing in Northern Ireland’s natural environment has a vitally important role to play in the economic recovery from Covid-19, leading RSPB NI to propose a five-point plan to deliver a ‘green recovery’.
There has never been a more important time to invest in the protection and restoration of the environment. The pandemic should serve as a reminder that our economy and the health of society are dependent on a flourishing natural world.
RSPB NI is proposing the following five-point plan:
- Commitment to a green recoveryfrom the Northern Ireland Executive
- New legislation to tackle the climate and nature crises
- Reform strategic government policy
- Deliver a Green New Deal
- Invest in nature to support healthier communities
Delivering these steps can boost our short-term economic recovery (through job creation), restore and maintain our natural environment both on land and at sea and help tackle climate change, whilst creating the longer-term conditions for greater prosperity and well-being in Northern Ireland.
RSPB NI Director Joanne Sherwood said: “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. 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.”
Leading economists, businesses and health care professionals point out that a green recovery will deliver greater economic benefits and provide a healthier, fairer society. Many organisations and institutions, including the UN, the European Council and the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) have endorsed this approach.
Economist Dr Matthew Agarwala, from the University of Cambridge, said: “Governments around the world are making trillions available for Covid support and stimulus packages. The question is whether we invest those funds in the skills, jobs, and growth industries of a sustainable 21st century, or waste them trying to preserve the 1970s. The most important lesson we could learn from this pandemic is that it’s far cheaper to protect and preserve nature than to suffer the consequences of destroying it.”
A recent poll in Northern Ireland showed that 74% of respondents now want new laws to protect nature. A Northern Ireland Climate Change Act, as committed to in New Decade New Approach, should be introduced and include a Northern Ireland net zero carbon target and binding sectoral targets.
In order to reverse the decline of nature in Northern Ireland, a framework of legally binding nature recovery targets must be introduced; and there should be a robust legal duty on the NI Assembly and public bodies to meet these targets. A Northern Ireland Environment Strategy should be published and underpinned by legally binding long-term and interim targets.
RSPB NI has a list of ‘ready to go’ projects that offer the NI Executive the opportunity to create jobs, start to halt and reverse biodiversity declines, and begin a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. The projects cover climate change mitigation, habitat restoration, and species recovery across Northern Ireland and represent an initial step towards delivering a green sustainable future for generations to come.
A wider work programme that builds on these projects could collectively provide 2,000 jobs across Northern Ireland, lock up carbon with a value of well over £1 billion and provide widespread economic benefits.
The Northern Ireland Executive must lead and support a green recovery to deliver urgent action to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.
With the UK Government hosting COP26 (The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in November 2021, where a new global framework for climate action is set to be agreed and the Convention on Biological Diversity due to meet next year to agree new global targets for biodiversity, the First and deputy First Ministers should publicly demonstrate their commitment to tackling the climate and biodiversity crises through a Green Recovery Programme.
Dr Agarwala concluded: “It’s not about choosing between healthy ecosystems or healthy economies, it’s about understanding how a healthy environment enables economic prosperity.
“In the months and years to come, health, jobs, and growth will be the priority for households and governments alike. Strategic investments in a green recovery can create jobs in construction, energy, infrastructure, and environmental restoration which can get people back to work now, putting our economy on track to meet net zero. A key bonus is that these investments will also reduce energy bills, freeing up spending power, and improve environmental and human health.”
* Join RSPB NI and guests including economist Dr Matthew Agarwala, Dr Aoife Ní Lochlainn (Nevin Economic Research Institute) and Richard Ramsey (Ulster Bank) on Friday 27 November from 12.30pm for the webinar Towards a Green Recovery, exploring how a green recovery can lay the foundations for a more sustainable, resilient and prosperous future for Northern Ireland. Info here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pal-yf_UML4&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=RSPBVideo