The Social Democratic and Labour Party has called on Environment Minister Edwin Poots to demonstrate his commitment to tackling the Climate Crisis by urgently introducing resourced strategies to protect woodlands and peatlands.
After the devastating fires in the Mourne Mountains, SDLP MLAs have called for action to prevent habitat loss and protect biodiversity.
Speaking ahead of the debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly today, South Down MLA Colin McGrath said:
“The scenes of devastation along the Mournes last month were a terrifying representation of the climate and biodiversity crisis. It was a stark reminder that our failure to address increasing global temperatures is a problem in the here and now, not just something for future generations to address.
“Those who use the Mournes regularly will know that the impact of wildfires is immense and it takes years for the environment to recover. These fires once happened every four years, but now they are taking place every year, and sometimes numerous times throughout the year. Tragically it has been pointed out to me that because our dry seasons are becoming drier and for longer, we could soon be witnessing wildfires in Ireland on the scale of those witnessed recently in Australia. Something needs to change.
We need to take action now to prevent wildfires and to encourage ecological recovery from these events. We are calling on the Environment Minister to introduce resourced strategies to protect our woodlands and peatlands from destruction. That should include additional regulation of sensitive areas so that rewetting and cutting are the methods of choice for land managers.
Dolores Kelly MLA, sponsor of the Assembly Environment and Nature Restoration Bill, said:
“Woodlands and peatlands in the North are an important source of biodiversity for plant and animal life. We know that our woodland coverage is among the worst on these islands and without intervention, the life that thrives on peatland is also at risk.
“The Environment Minister spent a long time in the Assembly on Monday opposing cross-party climate crisis legislation. It is time he got real and moved to deal with the ecological crisis facing us. Wildfires and biodiversity loss will only worsen if we don’t take action now. That means introducing tougher controls on burning peatland to protect our natural environment, it means introducing training opportunities and incentives for land managers to engage in rewetting or woodland management as ecosystem services.
“We have the opportunity to address the crisis we’re all facing. But it first demands that we face up to the scale of the crisis and commit to acting quickly.”