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Eco-Schools are launching an appeal to today to #StayConnected. Using the best approaches in technology we believe that we can still work closely together whilst staying apart. With schools closed for the foreseeable future, Eco-Schools are determined to ensure that parents, teachers and pupils still get the most out of our programme and learn about the importance of looking after our local environment. More importantly, Eco-Schools has always played an important role in promoting the benefits for the mental health and wellbeing of people from feeling a connection with the environment.

Over the past two weeks this programme has been looking at ways in which we can remain connected with one another while we go through this period of social distancing. Through increased use of our social media channels and other online platforms we are working to promote resources that can help teachers keep an emphasis on the environment and easy to use resources for pupils to use at home.

We are proud to launch our Three Easy Tricks to keep people connected over the next few weeks. This includes promoting available webinars that are being produced within the sector for young people to take part in easy to use, fun activities at home. This includes photography, importance of environmental education and civic participation. All can be done within the comfort of your own home. In addition to this, we are encouraging the public to share their positive Eco-Schools antics with us online so we can promote the good news stories that are out there at this very difficult time.

Speaking about this new initiative the Environmental Education Manager, Charlene McKeown said;

“We are delighted to launch this campaign today to encourage people to stay more connected with each other. With schools closed, it can be hard to have enough activities in the day to keep children occupied. At Eco-Schools we are determined to help bridge the gap and ensure that we keep promoting the important values that have made such a difference in schools across Northern Ireland.

I would encourage everyone to keep an eye on our social media channels and read our fortnightly newsletter to find out all about some of the interactive environmentally friendly activities that are currently available for all of the family to enjoy. We want you to share your positive stories with our online Eco-Schools community and we will make sure to promote them and spread the positivity far and wide.”

Download the attachment for more information.

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NI Litter: Threat to eco-system exposed

Claire Hudson   Fri 28 Feb 2020

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%.

Agriculture and Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, stated: “My Department is actively engaged in protecting and valuing our precious landscape, so it can be enjoyed by everyone. Those who engage in littering are not valuing our landscape and these actions have a negative impact that is felt across Northern Ireland. This Litter Composition Report shows that the amount of litter in our environment and entering the eco-system is still a real issue, and the findings will help to identify ways to address this. My Department, in partnership with Councils and NGOs, such as Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, is using a combined approach of legislation, education, awareness and enforcement to tackle and improve the litter issue in Northern Ireland. We are also working towards Northern Ireland’s first Environment Strategy which will play a key role in setting Northern Ireland’s environmental priorities for coming decades.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and DAERA commissioned the independent litter compositional analysis to alert both the general public and business community to the seriousness of the situation – no similar study has been conducted in Northern Ireland to date.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful comments: “This is the first ever NI Litter Composition Report – and the root problems are clear. We need to tackle the fact that one in three people openly admit to littering*. We must also share the responsibility for litter that is being created through increased ‘convenience’ packaging.”

At Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful we invest in litter prevention awareness through our Live Here Love Here campaign.

#TacklingPlasticNI

Click on the link below to view full Litter Composition Report 2019/20.

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Litter Composition Report 2019/20

One Big Opportunity: DAERA 25 Year Plan

Karina Robinson   Tue 05 Nov 2019   updated: Fri 20 Dec 2019

The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs has launched a consultation to develop a 25 year plan for our environment. That gives you one BIG opportunity to make a real difference and we want to make sure decision makers hear from you.

To make it easier for you and to give you some ideas we have included our responses below. To see the list of questions and full report go to:

DAERA - Public Discussion Document

Simply copy and paste the text below and email it to esni@daera-ni.gov.uk by 5pm on 5th February 2020.

Remember to say who you are and include your age.

Please share this with your family, friends, work colleagues and networks. The climate emergency requires ambitious leadership and urgent action. Everyone needs to raise their voice, everyone needs to play their part.

Our Responses

Question 1: Do you agree that the Environment Strategy should sit alongside existing Executive-endorsed strategies, such as the Sustainable Development, Public Health and Economic Strategies?

Response

Create healthier communities by providing opportunities to get together more outdoors in accessible public spaces to do good and feel good through practical environmental action. This should link in with other strategies around sustainable development, mental Health and well-being. Research has shown the benefits that volunteering has for an individual’s general health.

Question 4: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Engagement strategic theme?

Response

Inform every young person about climate breakdown, the loss of our wildlife and marine plastic pollution and what it means for our future. Help us find ways to raise awareness and to take action together. Declare a climate emergency.

Question 5: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Prosperity strategic theme?

Response

Invest more in public transport making our dependence on cars less necessary and improving air quality

Question 7: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Quality strategic theme?

Response

Plant more native trees. We have the lowest level of tree cover anywhere in Europe and want to see 20% of our land planted with trees; important for nature to thrive.

Create a waste free society where we use less, waste less and stop polluting our seas. And anything we use, including single use plastics, needs to be part of a truly circular economy.

Help everyone learn how to grow more tasty local food and provide plants for our pollinating bees.

Question 10: What are your big ideas for the future protection and enhancement of the environment?

Response All of the above

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has announced today that it will be supporting the Global Climate Strike on the 20th September 2019. The strike is being organised across the world to encourage greater awareness of the climate emergency facing the entire planet. Locally, we are adding our voices to the growing number of people who are demanding more concerted action on protecting our environment.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has consistently argued for stronger action at a Northern Ireland level and across the European Union. The rising number of alarming stories highlighting the impact of climate change across the globe demonstrates why we cannot wait to change our behaviours and that urgent action is required now.

Speaking about supporting the strike, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Ian Humphreys, said;

“There is no hiding place from climate change. We simply cannot afford to stay silent and do nothing. We have an obligation for future generations to step up to the mark and highlight the growing climate emergency facing all of us. We all have a duty to change how we live and search for alternatives that can protect our environment now and for the long term.”

“The growing body of evidence is clear. We are contributing in harmful ways to our planet, whether through plastic pollution, the mass extinction of species or fuelling climate change. We need to think about the longer term impacts of the decisions that we are making today. As a society there has to be wide scale behaviour change from all of us in order to reverse the severe damage that is being done to our environment.”

He continued;

“I want to commend those people, young and old, who are peacefully yet powerfully challenging us all to make a real difference on these undeniable issues. It is for those reasons and a belief that change is always possible that I am delighted to lend our organisations support to this day of action.”

Queen’s University Belfast is one of 76 locations to achieve the Green Flag Award. The Lanyon site at Queen’s, which also achieved a Green Heritage Site Accreditation, is the first university in Northern Ireland to be recognised by the scheme.

Today, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity that runs the scheme in Northern Ireland, revealed an ever growing and diverse number of free to enjoy places that have been awarded a prestigious Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces and is growing from strength to strength in Northern Ireland, increasing from three sites since programme inception in 2008.

Queen’s University provided the perfect backdrop to this year’s annual awards event where a record 76 Green Flag awards were presented.

Parks and open spaces wishing to achieve Green Flag status must have a site management plan in place and be able to demonstrate they comply with a range of strict criteria including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management, biodiversity, community involvement and safety standards. The Awards are judged annually by a panel of experts, who volunteer their time to assess the management plans and the applicant sites through a rigorous judging process.

For the 2019/20 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw a continued increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.

Queen’s University was one of six first-time winners this year across all participating organisations including: Brownstown Park and Gosford Forest Park in Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Randalstown Riverside Walk in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Drumglass Park in Belfast City Council and Warrenpoint Municipal Park in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

Joanne Clague, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer of Queen’s University said: “I am very pleased that Queen’s University Belfast is the first university in Northern Ireland to have achieved a Green Flag Award. The University has put significant efforts into creating, and maintaining, a high standard public green space for our staff, students, local community and visitors. We are delighted to have been recognised in this way.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award, where the sites are managed and maintained by loyal volunteers working at a local level. This year Sentry Hill Community Garden received their first Green Flag Community Award alongside Ballyeaston Church Ruin, Rathfern Activity Centre, Sentry Hill Community Garden and Toome Linear Park.

Queen’s University Belfast and Brooke Park in Derry and Strabane achieved their first Green Heritage Award along with Antrim Castle Gardens, Belfast Botanic Gardens and Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre; these sites celebrate and promote elements of their heritage that make their site unique.

There are now more places than ever for the public to enjoy free high quality outdoor spaces in Northern Ireland.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:

“It is time once again to celebrate a record number of Green Flag Awards meaning more spaces than ever before offering wonderful experiences for visitors throughout the year. I also want to thank the staff who give their all to maintain these spaces to such high standards for us to enjoy.

As all of us (and young people particularly) become glued to our phones and tablets these fantastic green spaces offer some of the closest and most accessible opportunities to explore and connect to nature. Where better to learn about our reliance on the natural world? Where better to spend quality time with friends and family? Where better to relax away from all the busy-ness of life? Come to think of it I am heading outside…”

If you are interested in finding out further information about the Green Flag Award or other programmes run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful please e-mail us on enquiries@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org call us on 028 9073 6920 or check out our website www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.

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1 in 10 streets plagued with dog fouling

David McCann   Wed 26 Jun 2019

10% of the 1,100 streets, roads and open spaces, surveyed in the 2019 Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report, had dog fouling present. This is an easily fixed issue by dog owners yet the results from this year’s Cleaner Neighbourhood Report show that dog fouling is as common on our streets as other types of litter. Results like this haven’t been this bad since 2015.

Although it is not all bad news as councils have started to uptake new engagement schemes to help them tackle the litter issue. Green dog walkers encourages dog owners to take a pledge to clean up after their dogs and encourage others to do the same. Businesses in some councils have started to make a commitment to move away from single use plastics and replacing them with more sustainable options. This is only a start but if everyone starts to make this change it should see great reductions in litter on our streets, roads and open spaces.

The impact that volunteers are making on the plastic problem is priceless. During the Big Spring Clean 553,571 volunteers got involved with cleaning up their local areas removing over 800 metric tons of rubbish. A further 20,640 volunteers got involved in cleaning up their coast line during clean coast week and through the adopt a spot programme 167 spots have been adopted to be cleaned 4 times of year. Education also plays a large part of making changes to the litter problem, with this 295 schools over a quarter of all schools, have now earned the right to fly a green flag, the pinnacle of the Eco-Schools programme.

In 2017/18 347 fixed penalty notices were issued to dog owners, resulting in fines of at least £50.

Dr. Ian Humphreys had this to say about dog fouling issue “Treading in dog fouling or wheeling your buggy through it is one of the most disgusting things that can happen when you are out and about. It carries serious health risks too, especially for children who can lose their sight simply because of a dog owner’s laziness. So the reputation of the vast majority of dog owners, who pick up after their pets, has been dealt a nasty blow by these latest figures. Our message is simple: pick up after your dog and put it in the bin. Or be ready to pay the fine.”

The report concludes with a number of recommendations for combating the litter problem for national and local policy makers. With Brexit decision time looming it is difficult to predict our legislative future. This is why it is important to scan for the UK, Ireland and EU legislation and consultations which have recently come through and see how they may help shape our future in tackling the litter problem.

You can read the full report at https://www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org/

One Million Pieces of Litter and counting

David McCann   Fri 14 Jun 2019

In 2018, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful marine litter surveyors recorded 625 pieces of litter per 100 meters of beach - the highest average since the surveys began in 2012. Plastic, not surprisingly makes up over 78% of the waste on the beaches including many ‘single use’ items such as drinks bottles, food wrappers and broken pieces of plastic. There were also many short pieces of blue string and rope, which are likely to have come from the fishing industry.

The surveys are carried out 4 times a year by trained volunteers across ten ‘reference’ beaches around our coasts. The surveys are funded by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and all the data collected feeds into the OSPAR Commission Database helping with decision-making around marine litter in the North East Atlantic from Iceland to Portugal. The data is accessible to anyone and at every reference beach it is collected in the same way at the same time of the year.

Commenting on the 2018 Report, David Small - Head of DAERA Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group said, “I would like to thank and congratulate Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and their network of volunteers on the marvellous work they have been doing to address the problem of marine litter pollution.

Marine litter pollution is a massive problem and one which can only be addressed by everyone playing their part. It is crucial that we continue to find ways to ensure our lifestyle choices don’t impact negatively on the environment, and the resources we depend on such as water, air, food and energy.”

Every one of the reference beaches are cleaned within two weeks of the survey by a range of volunteers from families and local groups to schools and businesses.

Nearly 3000 volunteers are involved in cleaning up the reference beaches, and they have collected over 1 million pieces of litter (December 2018) and over 5000 bags of litter have been removed.

Dr. Berman from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful stated, “Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful may be on the cover of the Marine Litter Report, but it is the volunteers and groups who not only record every piece of litter on the beach but also clean up too making out beaches better places for everyone”

There is a surge of interest in people wanted to get out and clean up their local areas. Doing good feels good and doing good together feels even better. There are many amazing groups out there and people are thinking more about using a refillable bottle and taking their own home made packed lunch to work or school to reduce their waste.

We have beautiful beaches in Northern Ireland. There are many dedicated people who help keep them that way. Why not come out and join them or sign up to adopt a spot near you? Everywhere is connected to the sea so you can make a difference by acting local.

You can read the full report at www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.

ENDS

To speak to a press spokesperson or more information please contact Dr Jade Berman, Local Environmental Quality & Business Development Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at: jade.berman@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org T: 028 90736920

One Million Pieces of Litter and counting

David McCann   Fri 14 Jun 2019

In 2018, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful marine litter surveyors recorded 625 pieces of litter per 100 meters of beach - the highest average since the surveys began in 2012. Plastic, not surprisingly makes up over 78% of the waste on the beaches including many ‘single use’ items such as drinks bottles, food wrappers and broken pieces of plastic. There were also many short pieces of blue string and rope, which are likely to have come from the fishing industry.

The surveys are carried out 4 times a year by trained volunteers across ten ‘reference’ beaches around our coasts. The surveys are funded by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and all the data collected feeds into the OSPAR Commission Database helping with decision-making around marine litter in the North East Atlantic from Iceland to Portugal. The data is accessible to anyone and at every reference beach it is collected in the same way at the same time of the year.

Commenting on the 2018 Report, David Small - Head of DAERA Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group said, “I would like to thank and congratulate Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and their network of volunteers on the marvellous work they have been doing to address the problem of marine litter pollution.

Marine litter pollution is a massive problem and one which can only be addressed by everyone playing their part. It is crucial that we continue to find ways to ensure our lifestyle choices don’t impact negatively on the environment, and the resources we depend on such as water, air, food and energy.”

Every one of the reference beaches are cleaned within two weeks of the survey by a range of volunteers from families and local groups to schools and businesses.

Nearly 3000 volunteers are involved in cleaning up the reference beaches, and they have collected over 1 million pieces of litter (December 2018) and over 5000 bags of litter have been removed.

Dr. Berman from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful stated, “Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful may be on the cover of the Marine Litter Report, but it is the volunteers and groups who not only record every piece of litter on the beach but also clean up too making out beaches better places for everyone”

There is a surge of interest in people wanted to get out and clean up their local areas. Doing good feels good and doing good together feels even better. There are many amazing groups out there and people are thinking more about using a refillable bottle and taking their own home made packed lunch to work or school to reduce their waste.

We have beautiful beaches in Northern Ireland. There are many dedicated people who help keep them that way. Why not come out and join them or sign up to adopt a spot near you? Everywhere is connected to the sea so you can make a difference by acting local.

You can read the full report at www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.

ENDS

To speak to a press spokesperson or more information please contact Dr Jade Berman, Local Environmental Quality & Business Development Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at: jade.berman@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org T: 028 90736920

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have announced 25 of the best beaches and marinas at their annual beach and marina awards. The event also highlighted the work of the EU SWIM project on bathing water quality monitoring

Beach and Marina Operators received 13 national and 12 international awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, environmental education, accessibility and water quality.

The internationally renowned Blue Flag will be flown at 8 of Northern Ireland’s beaches and 4 marinas during the 2019 season. The Blue Flag award is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has 45 participating countries. In 2019 Blue Flags have been awarded to 4,560 beaches, marinas and boats worldwide. Beach and marina operators receiving a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, safety, and providing access for all. Fun educational activities are also available at these sites.

The Seaside Award is the national standard for beaches across the UK. This programme ensures visitors of a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided being appropriate for the location of the beach. Twelve beaches have received the Seaside Award in 2019 and they can be identified by the Seaside Award Flag or Plaque.

The Blue Flag and Seaside Awards may only be flown if all the criteria are successfully met and maintained throughout the summer season.

One of Northern Ireland’s beaches, Helens Bay, received the Green Coast Award, which recognises an agreement between the operator and the local community to protect and promote a natural beach environment rather than developing visitor infrastructure. Green Coast Award beaches can also be found in the Republic of Ireland and in Wales, but due to their more natural state, may not be flying a flag.

Northern Ireland’s coastline has some iconic sights, and many of our award winning beaches include or are next to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with specially protected habitats and species forming a large part of the experience visitors enjoy. The aim of these award programmes is to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to spend more time in and learn more about their coastal environment. Most award winning beaches and marinas provide information points to showcase the best of Northern Ireland’s wildlife and provide visitors with information on how they can enjoy these natural wonders without disturbing or damaging them.

Information on all the award winning beaches and marinas can be found at www.beachni.com or by picking up an award winning beaches and marinas leaflet from your nearest Tourist Information Centre.

The awards were presented on 30th May 2019, in time for the bathing season, which runs from 1st June until the 15th September each year. The awards event also provided an update on the work of the EU SWIM Project on bathing water quality monitoring.

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “For your health, for good old fashioned ‘screen free’ fun and for helping us realise the wonder of our natural environment, it is hard to beat a visit to our coast or lough shores. Behind every enjoyable experience is a small team of committed beach and marina operators who toil year round to keep these places in pristine condition. These awards are one way of recognising their ongoing dedication and of course advertising the best very places to take a holiday.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is also one of the partners of the EU SWIM Project (System for Bathing Water Quality Monitoring). It is a cross-border research project funded by the INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, which is in the final stages of developing a system for live bathing water monitoring. The EU SWIM Project combines the expertise of lead partner University College Dublin and partners, Agri-Food Bioscience Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. The development of a bathing water quality prediction model uses the data collected by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, (DAERA) Marine and Fisheries Division and directly links into software to support the collection of data and delivery of information to the public.

Ian Humphreys added:

“The addition of the EU SWIM bathing water quality app will complement the Beach and Marina awards by ensuring the public are informed of the water quality status at the nine beaches being monitored across Northern Ireland and the Republic. The app that is being developed will provide peace of mind to bathers in the future that the water is of sufficient quality before they visit the beach. The app will be refined during the 2019 season. ”

DAERA currently monitors 26 identified bathing water sites across Northern Ireland on a weekly basis during the bathing season and is also contributing to the EU SWIM Project.

David Small Deputy Secretary (Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group) commented:

“I am delighted that so many of Northern Ireland’s beaches have received the coveted Blue Flag, Seaside and Green Coast Awards. These awards and the recognition that our first-class marinas have received, are testament to the hard work and dedication of those who manage our beaches and marinas. These outstanding awards let people around the world know that Northern Ireland is not only open for business but that our beaches, marinas and coastline are great destinations; clean, healthy and safe to enjoy, and supporting our vision of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.”

Notes to editors

For reference:

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

Blue Flag

1. Cranfield West Beach

2. Murlough Beach

3. Tyrella Beach

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Blue Flag

4. Benone Beach

5. Downhill Beach

6. West Strand

7. Whiterocks Beach

8. Ballycastle Marina

Seaside Award

9. Ballycastle Beach

10. Castlerock Beach

11. Portrush East Strand

12. Waterfoot Beach

Ards and North Down Borough Council

Seaside Award

13. Ballywalter Beach

14. Groomsport Beach

15. Millisle Beach

16. Cloughey Beach

Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Seaside Award

17. Crawfordsburn Beach

Green Coast Award

18. Helen’s Bay Beach

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Blue Flag

19. Carrickfergus Marina

Seaside Award

20. Ballygally Beach

21. Brown’s Bay

22. Carnlough Beach

Mid Ulster District Council

Blue Flag

23. Ballyronan Marina

National Trust

Blue Flag

24. Portstewart Strand

Quay Marinas Limited

Blue Flag

25. Bangor Marina

Seaside Award – 12

Blue Flag – 8 beaches 4 Marinas

Green Coast - 1

Today Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful launches its manifesto for the upcoming local government elections. The manifesto outlines specific proposals to help each council make improves in their local area over the next four years. This year we have put an emphasis on environmental education, community engagement and improving environmental standards.

Speaking about the launch of the manifesto, our Chief Executive Ian Humphreys said;

“Our aim is to continue changing behaviours across Northern Ireland. We have always worked incredibly well with councils in tackling key issues such as littering, dog fouling and public attitudes towards our environment. There has been a lot of progress since 2014, but we still have some distance to go. We need to go further and at a faster rate than we have in the past. The proposals our organisation launches today are another important stepping stone towards the better society that we want to build.”

He added;

“I am asking every candidate standing for election, to back our five positive policies for the next term of office. If each council can implement these five key asks then we will be able to achieve some important environmental improvements by 2023. At this stage for our climate, change simply cannot wait”

If you would like more information please contact, Ian Humphreys, Tel 90736920, Email; ian.humphreys@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

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Manifesto