TWENTY-four environmental projects across Northern Ireland will share £2.2 million of monies generated by the carrier bag levy, Environment Minister Edwin Poots has announced.
The Environment Fund 2020/21 uses the proceeds of the carrier bag levy (introduced in April 2013) to enable not-for-profit organisations and councils to deliver key environmental outcomes across NI.
The Minister made the announcement at Belfast’s Window on Wildlife, which has received funding that contributes to the allocation of wardens at RSPB reserves across the Province, who help create the right conditions for birds to nest, breed and raise their young.
Mr Poots said: “I am pleased to announce this significant funding, derived from the carrier bag levy, which will enable organisations to continue to protect our landscape, habitats and species and promote health and well-being so that we can all enjoy our natural environment.
“Prior to the carrier bag levy being introduced in 2013, 300 million single use bags were used each year in Northern Ireland, filling up landfill, suffocating our seas and damaging our habitats and wildlife.
“The £2.2 million generated from the levy will help socially-conscious organisations protect and enhance our environment and showcases my department’s commitment to find innovative and simple solutions that have big benefits. I want to see even more practical measures that will make a real difference and ensure we leave our environment in an even better shape than we found it.”
He continued: “This initiative reflects the New Decade, New Approach agreement where my Executive colleagues and I have pledged to eliminate plastic pollution and drive through a range of measures to protect the environment. I intend to work closely with the Executive and with other UK Ministers to co-ordinate our approach to unnecessary plastic and deliver the maximum benefit across the UK.”
A total of 24 organisations will receive grants for their projects which range from £6,746 to £257,468.
Among the initiatives to be funded are projects to recruit and train volunteers for large scale bird monitoring surveys; carry out habitat and species conservation activities; maintain and promote long-distance walking routes and encourage recycling.
The Minister concluded: “The aim of the carrier bag levy is to not only reduce the number of carrier bags in circulation but also to reduce the amount of plastic and paper going to landfill, help the environment and save money for local councils in landfill tax. People across Northern Ireland have also embraced the reuse and recycling of shopping bags and I know that together we can achieve even more.”
Craig McGuicken, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Environment Link, said: “The announcement of the Environment Fund is excellent news for everyone interested in the environment of Northern Ireland. This funding provides essential support to our environmental NGOs, helping to deliver on-the-ground action, as well as allowing for long term planning. At a time when public concern and interest in environmental matters is at a high, this is welcome news.”
Joanne Sherwood, RSPB NI Director, said: “RSPB NI is delighted to host Minister Poots at Belfast Window on Wildlife, our nature reserve in the heart of Belfast. We welcome the Minister’s announcement today that essential funding is being made available.
“Nature-based solutions play a crucial role in tackling the climate and nature crisis that we are all facing, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the Minister and our partners to lead the way in safeguarding the wellbeing of future generations.”