Government should mark World Environment Day with commitment to change
Sinn Féin newly appointed Environment Spokesperson, North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan, has criticised the Department of Environment attempt to mark World Environment Day by again putting the focus on individuals as opposed to taking responsibility itself for delivering environmental change.
Mr McGuigan said:
"There is nothing wrong with the 'People Pledge' campaign to motivate and highlight important environmental issues. Raising awareness through advertising campaigns is an important tool in reducing waste but it is costly and has only led to minor changes in attitudes to waste. Concerted action is required. This should include legislation that promotes change and challenges the attitudes of businesses and consumers alike. It is time that government began to take its own responsibility much more seriously rather than constantly look for individuals to lead the way.
"In key areas the government has abjectly failed to act. There is a crisis in waste treatment capacity. It makes no sense to look at the problems of waste management or illegal dumping in a segregated way. We need an All Ireland waste management strategy driven by an Implementation Body with tough enforcement powers to move us away from landfill and incineration. In meeting EU directives on waste management the government is abandoning councils and almost by default trying to force us down the road of incineration as opposed to providing the proper planning and financial framework for the development of alternatives.
"There is an onus on us to act faster and to invest more in meeting tough new guidelines. Failure to comply with these EU directives will potentially cost us millions and this will hit local councils, who have not been the support or resources they need, particularly hard.
"Rather than looking for consumers to alter attitudes government should be looking at industry and business to meet environmental benchmarks. It should be looking at extending the plastic bag tax to the Six Counties because of its success in the south in reducing use and generating income. It should also be doing more to encourage a reduction in packaging.
"Sinn Féin also believe that an All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency is a viable alternative to DoE failures.
"We need radical solutions to a problem that will not go away. Crown immunity from prosecution for the DoE, and indeed all government departments and agencies should be removed. We need to put the emphasis on prevention rather than cure.
"The DoE has failed to protect the environment and to develop the waste management solution required for the 21st century. A fitting way to mark World Environment Day would be for the DoE to recognise this.
"Sinn Fein believe the department should be stripped of its environmental protection powers because it has abjectly failed to do its job. We believe that there is a strong case for the creation of a single All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency with strong enforcement powers and a strong commitment to ensuring that the polluter is held responsible for their actions and meets treatment costs." ENDS