He made the comments during a joint visit with the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to an Eco-School. Eco-Schools is the world’s largest environmental education programme, which is delivered here by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (KNIB), with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
Ballycraigy Primary School, in Antrim, has been involved in the scheme since 2005 and has developed an outdoor vegetable garden, wildlife area and a wild woodland area with a hedgehog house, bug hotel and bird feeding stations to enhance local biodiversity.
Minister Poots said: “It is vital that we connect our young people with nature and the Eco-Schools programme is a fantastic way to achieve that. This generation will play a vital role in tackling climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing us all.
“Ahead of COP26, I am delighted to find these amazing young people who are so engaged and aware of climate change and are taking action to change things. I hope the work they are doing will inspire others to follow their example and become directly involved in helping us become a more sustainable place.
“Through the Eco-Schools programme, our young people have the opportunity to learn about our precious environment and the role they can play in protecting and improving it. And in this centenary year, it is crucial that we all look ahead to the next 100 years and do better by our environment and future generations,” he added.
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “We’re immensely proud of Northern Ireland’s strong support for Eco-Schools, which is entirely down to the commitment and energy of many local teachers and parents. Funding from DAERA has been instrumental in helping achieve a world first, in that every school in Northern Ireland is registered as an Eco-School although not all are active yet.
“However, we’re facing a three-pronged global emergency of climate
change, biodiversity loss and pollution and we want to see all schools
in Northern Ireland embracing the programme and being given support and
space within the curriculum to do so. Given the immense environmental
challenges facing our young people, it is our duty as a society to give
them the information they need to make the right choices and take
appropriate action going forward.”