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Build Back Better: How Councils can spark a green post-COVID recovery

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” said Winston Churchill. As we move from emergency response mode to making plans for post-coronavirus recovery, a wave of new thinking is emerging on how we can do things differently or perhaps more specifically – ‘better, fairer and greener’.  The conversation up to now has focused on what central governments can do. But it is just as relevant for local councils.


Climate cartoon, by Adam Cort (9 years old), winner of WWF 'The Future We Want' Competition

NI streets littered with 1.3 million bits of rubbish

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has released a report funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), that demonstrates that litter remains at concerning levels in NI – damaging our forests, parks, beaches and streets. 

The Litter Composition Report estimates 1,294,164 items are littered on our streets at any one time, weighing approximately 28 tonnes and costing the public purse £45 million annually in Northern Ireland. 

According to the report, a significant amount of the litter found contained plastic - 71% is made up of cigarette butts, plastic bottles, confectionary and crisp wrappers. Plastic never breaks down and forms harmful micro-plastics which enter our ecosystem. The second most common category was metals at 14.5%, which was mostly made up of non-alcoholic drinks packaging at 9.7%.

Northern Ireland Assembly declares a 'climate emergency'

The Northern Ireland Assembly has declared a climate emergency and backed the creation of an independent body to protect the environment.

It followed a debate on climate change in the chamber on Monday 27 January 2020. 

MLAs supported immediate action to cut carbon emissions and called for an independent Environmental Protection Agency to be established within a year.

Both measures were in a draft Programme for Government in the deal which re-established the political institutions.

In the course of the debate, the assembly was told that Northern Ireland was not being "bounced" into measures to deal with climate change.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey said there was 50 years of evidence to support the need for action.

"We have the evidence, but we're fast running out of time," she said.

Councils examine range of options to stop scourge of plastic waste

Antrim and Newtwoabbey Borough Council have joined a list of councils across Northern Ireland to outline their committment to reducing the amount of Single Use Plastics (SUP) across their organisation.

The plans include removal of vending machines in leisure centres and the use of social media ‘influencers’ to encourage recycling. In October 2018, an action plan setting out a number of proposals was approved, including working with Northern Ireland Water, Sustainable Northern Ireland and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

A report said that while the use of plastics rather than glass for holding drinks and other materials has resulted in reduced fuel costs and carbon emissions, the recycling of these materials has been traditionally more difficult than glass and there is also the problem of the items being discarded and ending up as litter, rather than being binned. 

Energy Strategy Call for Evidence - Closing Soon

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The ‘net zero’ emissions target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. A reduction in energy-related emissions is a significant part of this.

The publication of this Call for Evidence is part of an on-going public engagement process designed to inform and shape proposals which will be presented to a future Minister for the Economy.

Government launch 5-year Climate Change Adaptation Programme for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s second Climate Change Adaptation Programme (NICCAP2) was published in September 2019 and it covers the period 2019-2024.

NICCAP2 contains the NICS Departments response to the risks and opportunities relevant to Northern Ireland as identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 ("CCRA 2017").

NICCAP2 focuses on key priority areas identified as requiring urgent adaptation action over the next five years.

It sets the policies, strategies, and delivery plan actions by which NICS Departments will deliver outcome objectives so to achieve the vision of ‘A resilient Northern Ireland which will take timely and well-informed decisions to address the socio-economic and environmental impacts of climate change’.

Lay of the Land - RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Northern Ireland Report

Lay of the Land outlines the need for a transformation in our food and farming system in order to respond to the climate emergency and restore biodiversity, improve the public's health and wellbeing in all communities and develop Northern Ireland's distinctive pattern of farming to play its full part in responding to these challenges, supporting and revitalising rural communities.

It is now a matter of urgency that progress is made towards the outcomes above. Building on what we have heard from citizens and the analysis set out in this report, we make the following recommendation:

Causeway Coast and Glens wins Sustainability Category at Local Government Awards

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council was a winner at this year’s Local Government Awards on February 20.

The council picked up the award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability by a Local Authority for their Live Smart campaign. Live Smart aims to engage staff and the wider community in debate and actions which promote sustainability within the Borough. The event was hosted by journalist Sarah Travers at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast.

The Awards are co-ordinated by NILGA and the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE). This year they attracted 58 entries and showcased brilliance in service provision, new initiatives and the personal commitment from councils, councillors, staff and partners. Runners up in the category included Mid Ulster District Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Global Goals Local Action - 23 November 2018, Coffee Cure, Bangor

Sustainable NI and Nilga recently organised an event entitled Global Goals, Local Action (23 November 2018, Coffee Cure, Bangor), hosted by Ards and North Down Borough Council.  The event was to raise awareness of the 17 international Sustainable Development Goals and how they are being, and could be, implemented at a local level.

The event included a range of speakers covering topics such as Sustainable Tourism, Planning and Resilience, Sustainable Food and Responsible Business.  

This event was developed in association with Nilga and was therefore designed for Elected Members.  We had 21 members from across Northern Ireland in attendance.  However, the event was not solely for members and other council officers and public sector representatives attended along with the private sector.

Background to the SDGs

Ards and North Down Borough Council could be the first in NI to have Seabins

A series of unique and innovative ways of protecting the environment are being introduced by Ards and North Down Borough Council.  The projects are being funding by the Recycling Community Investment Fund set up in 2016 from savings achieved through residents committment to the councils recycling schemes.

One particular project is the purchase of 3 Seabins to be located around the Ards and North Down Borough Council coastline - the longest coastline of any local authority in Northern Ireland.  Its 110 miles of coastline draws tourism as a result of its waterways, harbours and marinas and this initiative will help in the fight against the eight million pieces of plastic that find their way into oceans daily, making the sea a cleaner and safer place for both residents and local marine wildlife.