Widespread support for new environmental powers

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

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House sparrowImage source, RSPB
Image caption,
In a new survey, three quarters of people have supported new legal protections for the environment

There is widespread public support for new powers to protect the environment, according to a leading conservation charity.

The RSPBNI commissioned a poll of more than 1,800 people in February.

Three quarters said they supported new laws to protect the environment, while half said that environmental policies would influence future voting.

There was extensive backing for an Independent Environmental Protection Agency.

This is something there is a commitment to in the New Decade, New Approach agreement which re-established the Stormont institutions.

Almost three quarters said Northern Ireland should have its own climate change act and 68% supported a local target of net zero emissions by 2045.

'Green recovery'

Conservation groups and business leaders recently issued a joint call for a "green recovery" from Covid, with new policies that would lock in some of the environmental benefits of the shutdown.

And earlier this month the assembly backed a motion calling for the recovery to be built on a "just and green transition" to an economy based on sustainable, higher skilled jobs.

"The decisions the government makes as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis will affect our environment and community for decades to come," said RSPBNI head of policy, John Martin.

"These results indicate that people are not only concerned about the threat of climate change and destruction of nature, but they are seeking political action in the form a green recovery to proactively protect, recover and enhance the environment for both people and nature to thrive."