#GreenRecoveryNI Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (25/05/2020)                                      

NORTHERN IRISH YOUTH CLIMATE ORG DEMANDS GREEN RECOVERY FROM COVID-19 CRISIS, LAUNCH #GREENRECOVERYNI CAMPAIGN 

[Northern Ireland, 25/05]  Northern Ireland’s climate organisations are calling on all levels of government in Northern Ireland to pass a “Green Recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Youth Climate Association Northern Ireland (YCANI, formerly NISCN), along with Polluters Out Northern Ireland, Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland, Extinction Rebellion Youth Northern Ireland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Ulster Wildlife, Sustainable Northern Ireland and Fridays for Future Belfast, are proposing “a Green Recovery for Northern Ireland.” 

As governments all around the world create their COVID-19 recovery plans, climate organisations from all around Northern Ireland are asking for investments in green industries, sustainable infrastructure and transportation. 

MORE INFORMATION RE CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED #GreenRecoveryNI

The campaign is backed by climate groups all around Northern Ireland. The campaign pushes for a “green” transition from the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the government must not invest in carbon-heavy industries unless they bring their operations in line with the 1.5C warming target for global heating. 

That is why the campaign #GreenRecoveryNI is being launched. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to transition to a Green Economy within Northern Ireland. 

QUOTES

“This global pandemic has caused incredible suffering and we at YCANI stand in solidarity with all those affected. Every life lost is truly a tragedy. The world is currently on pause, we have a choice on how we press play again. Do we want to fast-forward into the climate crisis and make suffering on this scale the new normal, or do we want to rewind and take this chance to rebuild a more sustainable society and livable planet? The choice seems clear to us, but will the people in power press the right button?”

-Anna Kernahan, 17, Belfast. 

Stormont should use this period to invest in sustainable infrastructure and industry. A green recovery out of COVID-19 that includes the creation of new, green jobs is essential for the livelihoods of the many people whose socio-economic situation will be affected by the aftermath of this terrible disease.”

-Ailís Níc Aoidh, 17, Omagh. 

“More than 1 in 24 deaths in Belfast are linked to the city’s dangerous levels of air pollution, as researched by Sector for Cities and reported by Belfast Live  on the 27th January 2020. The pandemic has shown us that these deaths are unnecessary and preventable. Stormont, along with all levels of government must take bold action to protect Northern Ireland from climate change.” 

-Sam Atkinson, 14, Belfast. 

We aim to put pressure on NI’s elected officials and government to consider the climate in NI’s COVID-19 recovery plans. As we are all aware, our government’s policy and attitude around the climate crisis was not up to the standards we wanted before the arrival of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

But we are starting to see the other side of our current situation, and governments around the world are drawing up their recovery plans for our post-COVID-19 world. At the same time, companies in carbon-heavy industries are currently appealing to our governments for bailouts. The problem is they are offering no green promises in return, no commitment to a shift to green industry, no commitment to invest in our future. Why are we allowing another crisis to be funded when we are only starting to recover from a global health crisis? To us at YCANI, it doesn’t make sense. 

This campaign – #GreenRecoveryNI – is asking for a green recovery from COVID-19. It is asking for an investment in green industry, renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure such as transport. We have an opportunity here as a country, to look at all aspects of how we operate, and to move forward after COVID-19 to create a better, greener Northern Ireland. 

Climate groups from Northern Ireland are calling on the government to agree to the demands laid out in the open letter (shown below). 

THE FOLLOWING IS THE OPEN LETTER SENT TO POLITICIANS ACROSS NORTHERN IRELAND

To whom it may concern,

I hope this email finds you well and safe in these uncertain times.

We are writing to you to discuss some actions I would like you to take with regards to a post-COVID19 response effort. I’m sure you are currently inundated with important tasks, however, I implore you to consider the following issues which I believe to be vital to recovering from this crisis. These issues pertain to various aspects of society however focus primarily on environmental issues.

(i) REVIEW AND UPDATE CLIMATE POLICY IN NORTHERN IRELAND IN RESPONSE TO THE PRESENT CRISIS

There is an opportunity to reassess how responses to international crises are formulated based on the successes and failures of the response to COVID-19. There has been international failure to take seriously the warnings about the virus that were put forward by the scientific community; the downplaying of the virus exhibited by many world leaders is typical of the reaction also exhibited when confronted with warnings about climate change. Immediate reassessment of Northern Ireland’s climate change policy is required to ensure alignment with science-based climate change policy as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). In addition, the precautionary principle should be upheld in any instances where there is insufficient scientific evidence in line with IPCC and CCC recommendations. 

(ii) ASSESS THE BENEFITS OF POLLUTION REDUCTION DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK AND LEGISLATE TO LOWER AIR POLLUTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND

 A recent study has shown that over 30 sites across Northern Ireland breach legal limits of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). It is reported that more than 500 deaths a year are attributed to Northern Ireland’s worsening air pollution crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that this is not an unsolvable issue. Analysis should be conducted into the reduction in air pollution levels across Northern Ireland and assess the number of lives saved through lower pollution levels. This analysis should be used to create new policies around air pollution in line with levels experienced during the COVID-19 outbreak to prevent further deaths from air pollution. Legislation must be introduced to prevent these needless deaths and all levels of government should listen to the scientific community when creating and implementing this policy. 

(iii) ASSESS THE EFFECTIVE PROTECTION OF SOCIETY’S MOST VULNERABLE TO CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH COVID-19 LEARNINGS AND LEGISLATE TO SAFEGUARD THOSE AT RISK

The outbreak of COVID-19 has shown that the most vulnerable in society are at risk from its indirect impacts in the same way that society’s most vulnerable are at higher risk to the indirect impacts of climate change. Those primarily affected include people without secure housing, with addictions to illegal or harmful substances, and those on low wages; the closure of support services and community facilities have a large impact on those already struggling. Climate legislation should safeguard and protect those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in a way which has not been considered during this pandemic. The Government must create new policies and legislation which explicitly protects those most vulnerable to the indirect impacts of climate change. This legislation should include specific funds during natural disasters brought on by climate change; access to social and financial support systems; and confirmed access to safe housing or shelter.

(iv) FINANCIAL AID SHOULD ONLY BE GIVEN IN EXCHANGE FOR LOW-CARBON COMMITMENTS IN LINE WITH 1.5C OF WARMING (IPCC REPORT OF 2018)

This pandemic offers us a unique opportunity to build back better. We must not re-invest into carbon-heavy industries, unless they bring their actions into line with 1.5 degrees. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the Government has continued to invest in both fossil fuels and aviation; two highly polluting industries who have not yet made significant steps to meet the 1.5C target. Since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, both industries have suffered financially. If decisions are made without environmental consideration, they could lock Northern Ireland into a high-carbon future and continue with the business-as-usual trajectory that is threatening the future of the planet. 

(v) ECONOMIC RESPONSES TO COVID-19 MUST BE ‘GREEN’

Current economic behaviours indicate NI will not meet its commitments made towards the Paris Agreement. Steps should be taken in the aftermath of the pandemic to realign the economy with climate goals. The CEO of the CCC suggests that ‘green stimulus’ could be the answer, with ‘green gilts’ given to target projects which actively contribute to the aspiration to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. We suggest promoting green gilts which target programmes and research in line with the UK’s net-zero carbon target, such as green infrastructure and renewable energy.

We urge you, and all levels of government to take significant action to create a “green recovery” for Northern Ireland, taking into the account the necessary steps outlined above. 

END OF OPEN LETTER

END OF PRESS RELEASE

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