Northern Ireland's First Environment Strategy: Making it work for you

4 Oct 2019 Siobhan McAlister    Last updated: 7 Oct 2019

In September, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) launched a consultation seeking views on Northern Ireland's first environment strategy.

DAERA highlighted that NI’s environment is its most important asset and it is crucial to each and every one of us, it is a fundamental right to live in a healthy society with access to sufficient and appropriate environmental resources for a healthy life. To this end, the department are consulting on a new Environment Strategy for NI and are seeking to obtain a broad a view as possible on what this should look like.

The consultation is due to close on 23 December 2019.

What are our current environmental laws?

We are currently guided by a set of environmental principles in the EU treaties, it has been set out that after Brexit these principles will be embedded into domestic law.

Why now?

DAERA has outline some of the reasons why an Environment Strategy is needed for NI:

  • We have many environmental problems, from air quality to loss of biodiversity
  • There is currently a ‘climate and environment emergency’
  • The UK Government have published a 25-year plan for the environment
  • Brexit will have an impact on environmental protection as well as agriculture and fishing industries
  • There are still big gaps in our knowledge about the environment here

How are we doing currently?

There are some areas we are doing well in such as around the carrier bag levy and household recycling. We are still a way off reaching some targets such as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A full environment statistics report can be viewed here. This includes data on transport, air pollution, emissions, climate change, water quality and more.

What is the scope of the strategy?

Because the environment is all encompassing, the Department has acknowledged that the Environment Strategy needs to fit in with and sit at the same level as other strategies such as the Sustainable Development Strategy, Public Health Strategy and the Economic Strategy.

They have outlined that at the very least, the Environment Strategy will cover these areas:

  • Climate Change (mitigation and adaption)
  • Natural Environment and Landscapes
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Marine Environment
  • Environmental Quality (Air, Water, Neighbourhood)
  • Fishers (Inland and Sea) and Aquaculture
  • Built Environment

Strategic Themes

The Department has developed four possible themes for the strategy:

  • Environmental Engagement – education, general public awareness, use of technology, DAERA’s Knowledge Advisory Service
  • Environmental Prosperity- via tourism, agri-food sector, green economy, leisure activities, health and ecosystem services
  • Environmental Efficiency- reducing emissions, resource efficiency, circular economy, sustainable production and consumption
  • Environmental Quality- air quality, noise, biodiversity, land quality, water quality, neighbourhood quality

Environmental Governance

Environmental governance is about how we manage protection of the environment. We need to think about how well protected our environment is here, but also how it will continue to be properly protected after Brexit and the loss of European Commission and the European Court of Justice which provides an accountability mechanism for environmental protection here.

The UK Government is planning to set up an Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) in England and there are questions around whether a similar mechanism should be set up here, but which would not replace the work of the NI Environment Agency.

Draft Outcomes

DAERA has highlighted that the environment strategy should be outcomes focused and have suggested six possible outcomes:

  • We achieve zero waste and a well-developed circular economy
  • Everyone can access and is connected to a healthy environment
  • We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved climate resilience
  • Biodiversity loss halted, ecosystems in a healthy state and well managed landscape
  • We achieve sustainable consumption and production on land and sea
  • We have excellent air, water, land and neighbourhood quality

NICVA and NI Environment Link are hosting an event on 8 November 2019 to bring together organisations in the voluntary and community sector to have their say on what they think a Northern Ireland Environment Strategy should look like. Register here to come along to that event.

The full public discussion document is available here

The abridged version is available here

Easy read version available here

Respond to the consultation online here, or respond via email using the response template to [email protected] or write to:

Neighbourhood Environment Quality Branch
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Regulatory and Natural Resources Policy Division
2nd Floor, Klondyke Building

siobhan.mcalister@nicva.org's picture
by Siobhan McAlister

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]