RSPB NI:Cross-party support from Stormont to protect nature and improve public health

Friday 22 October 2021

On the 18th October 2021 at Stormont, RSPB NI together with Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation NI asked MLAs to commit to legally binding targets for Northern Ireland to restore nature and ensure better environmental standards including

Members of the NI Executive and Assembly have come out in support of the pledge to protect nature and improve public health.

The pledge is highlighting the nature and public health crises facing Northern Ireland, and calls for ambitious government action to create a healthy environment for nature and people to thrive in.

Research from RSPB and the Natural History Museum revealed that Northern Ireland is the 12th worst out of 240 countries for the amount of nature left. With around a quarter of bird species at risk from extinction, and 1 out of 49 priority habitats in good condition, nature is in crisis across Northern Ireland. But it is not just nature that is suffering, a healthy environment is essential for everyone, yet dangerous air pollution is linked to over 800 premature deaths a year in Northern Ireland. Spending time in nature creates mental and physical wellbeing benefits, the importance of which has become clear during COVID 19.

Without ambitious action to improve the natural environment we risk prolonging the negative impacts on public health and losing our precious nature such as puffins, swifts and kestrels. Northern Ireland needs new legislation to protect nature and improve public health, and RSPB NI along with Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation NI are pleased to have secured cross-party support for action from 31 MLAs.

Whilst committing to act, many MLAs shared their experiences with health difficulties they, and their constituents have faced, including life-threatening conditions such as COPD, asthma and lung cancer, and spoke of their ambition to protect the natural environment for future generations.

SDLP Dolores Kelly MLA who co-sponsored the event along-side John Blair MLA and Steve Aiken MLA, said:

“I was pleased to sponsor this event in the Assembly, everyone has a role to play in tackling the climate crisis and the benefits will be felt throughout society. We must also take action to protect not just ourselves, but nature and our environment. We are currently facing a biodiversity crisis, with many animals and plants at risk of extinction without urgent action.

By working together to address climate issues we can lower carbon emissions which would lower air pollution and result in less harmful respiratory conditions in our population. We see hundreds of deaths a year in the North as a direct result of these illnesses so this is not a matter that should be taken lightly. 

This event was particularly timely in the lead up to COP26, where our world leaders will have the chance to recommit themselves to tackling these issues and safeguarding our planet for future generations. I am looking forward to playing my part by introducing my Biodiversity Bill on the floor of the Assembly in the coming weeks.”

First Minister, Paul Givan MLA said:

“I’m delighted to sign this pledge and come along and show my support for the RSPB and their campaign with Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation. It’s vitally important that we have a good environment and one that protects all our people. But, also biodiversity, which is vitally important. “I have a mild form of asthma and I know how important it is to have clear air around us. This campaign is something I give my support to.

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Northern Ireland, added:

“I’d like to thank Dolores Kelly for supporting our event with RSPB NI to ask MLAs from across the political spectrum to pledge to Protect Nature and Improve Public Health. We’re overwhelmed by the cross-party support; this is a great start to ensure better health for future generations in Northern Ireland.

It is encouraging to see parties coming together, and we hope this improves wider public knowledge on key issues surrounding climate change. Lung health has never been such an important priority, we need change to happen soon, lives literally depend on it. “

Joanne Sherwood, Director of RSPB Northern Ireland, added:

“This new partnership with Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation NI shows that action to protect nature, improve public health and secure environmental oversight has strong support across Stormont. Health and nature are intrinsically linked – we are all part of nature and restoring and protecting nature is one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change, buffering against extreme weather, generating green jobs, and creating a positive future for everyone.

With two major global conferences for climate and nature – COP26 and COP15 – MLAs have the chance to set ambitious new laws, provide adequate financing and support practical conservation action to achieve this. RSPB NI is committed to improving public health through playing our part in nature’s recovery to Revive Our World.”

 

Last Updated: Friday 19 November 2021

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