I am delighted to be here today at the launch of a project which, as Chris has said, marks a first step towards decarbonising public transport in Northern Ireland. Today we are setting off on a highly ambitious journey; one which will not be without its challenges. We are doing that at a time when public finances have been constrained and many of our services are under considerable pressure. We cannot ignore that, but equally we cannot allow it to limit our ambitions; to prevent us from planning now for the long-term; creating opportunities for our people and tackling head-on the challenges facing our economy, society and our environment. If we are to improve wellbeing for all our people and for the future generations to whom we have a shared duty there is simply no alternative.
As Minister I recognise that investment in infrastructure is not an end in itself. It is about people and place; it is about transforming lives and improving health and well-being for all our communities across Northern Ireland. It is for that reason over the next two years, my focus will be on developing a sustainable water, drainage and transport infrastructure that improves people’s lives, connects people across this island, unlocks our economic potential and importantly, plays our part in tackling the climate emergency, which is the single greatest global challenge we face.
These are outcomes we cannot deliver on our own. It requires greater partnership across the public and private sector and civil society. It requires more innovative solutions that allow us to deliver opportunities and tackle head-on the challenges facing our communities, our economy and our environment. This project, by innovating and building partnerships, exemplifies that approach. I want to congratulate Chris, Ian, Jo and their teams for the ambition you’ve shown and the opportunities this project presents both in terms of transforming public transport and our response to the climate emergency, but also in opening up new and exciting opportunities for our economy.
My focus as Minister will be on building connectivity through public transport and active travel. But as I’ve said this is not an end in itself. The simple fact is that this is essential if our economy, particularly in our urban areas is to have the capacity to grow; if we are to ensure all our people can access basic opportunities; if we are to ensure our communities are attractive, healthy places to live, work and visit. Equally though, given the impact of transport historically on greenhouse gas emissions and air quality decarbonising public transport must be a priority. That is why this announcement today is so important.
I have an ambitious vision for a low carbon future where we make low emission public transport accessible to people and communities across Northern Ireland. Together we are starting on that journey today. It is one I as Minister look forward to making with you and to working together to transform the lives of our people.