NI Environment Link - Latest News NI Environment Link en-gb Andi Topping (NI Environment Link) (NI Environment Link) <![CDATA[ EU Matters February 2018]]>  



Read the February 2018 edition here.

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 10:09:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ The future of farming?]]>  


Photo by R Maxwell

The Nature Matters NI campaign make the case for a functioning NI Assembly to ensure the development of agriculture policy to benefit nature, farmers and people across the UK and argue that without this in place, farming risks being left behind in the devolved countries.

By John Martin

The UK Government has published its vision for agriculture policy post Brexit in a consultation document entitled ‘Health and Harmony – The future of farming, food and the environment in a green Brexit’. The point of the consultation is to gather stakeholder opinions ahead of the Agriculture Bill announced in the Queens Speech. The Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has pledged to incentivise methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, help with climate change mitigation/adaptation and improve air quality.

There is much to support in the proposals for England including the promise to enshrine the principle of ‘public money for public goods’ within future subsidies.  However there is one glaring issue, the proposals won’t apply to Northern Ireland or other devolved administrations because agriculture is a devolved power. With no functioning Assembly since January 2017, the agriculture sector in Northern Ireland risks being left behind as policy and legislation is developed elsewhere. Without the Assembly, new policy or legislation can’t be developed, meaning there’s no clarity on the future of agriculture policy direction for Northern Ireland.

Working towards a common approach across the UK

The Nature Matters NI campaign, which is a coalition of eNGO’s in Northern Ireland, has been calling for a common framework for agriculture policy across the UK.

Our aim of wanting farming to be good for people and nature applies everywhere across the UK. We had previously laid out our vision for a Common Framework in our agriculture policy position paper which you can find here. We are pleased to see some elements of those asks within the Defra consultation such as the ‘management of our shared resources’ and proposals to ‘ensure compliance with international obligations’ which we support.  

This section also makes reference to the economic and social linkages with Northern Ireland and Ireland, as NI is the only place that shares a land border with the EU. It also notes the importance of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement and its establishing treaty of North–South Cooperation, of which the UK committed to protecting in the Joint UK–EU Report in December 2017. Reading between the lines, this is essentially saying each devolved government is free to produce their own policy, with some elements of cooperation decided by the Joint Ministerial Council (UK Agriculture Ministers) that are still to be revealed.

As stated previously, agriculture is a devolved competency, therefore local policy and legislation will required to ensure the NI Assembly and associated departments have the appropriate legal powers to implement something meaningful in NI. However, with the current political impasse in the NI Executive, options need to be considered for developing legislation both with and without a functioning NI Assembly.

Follow @NatureMattersNI on Twitter to keep up to date with our campaign and help us secure the best future for our environment in Northern Ireland.

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 10:04:55 +0000
<![CDATA[ Marine Litter Report published]]>


The 2017 Marine Litter Report, published by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has laid bare the state of our beaches in Northern Ireland when it comes to the litter landing on our shores. The organisation began these surveys in 2012, with an average of 510 items of litter being found per 100m of beach between then and now. An astonishing 79% of this litter was made of plastic, a figure that rises to 82% when you look at the 2017 data in isolation. Incredibly, 30% of the litter was a ‘single use plastic’, so called because the item is used once and then thrown away.

Much has been made of the plastic problem in the media recently, with shows like ‘Blue Planet II’ and the ‘Sky Ocean Rescue’ campaign shining the spotlight on what is a global issue and requires a global response. The Marine Litter Report also lends some insight into the matter, looking at the specific harm that plastic poses to some of our most beloved and protected marine animals. From leatherback turtles to the iconic Atlantic puffin, it seems that no creature is immune from the ubiquitous material and it is estimated that up to 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050 if no fundamental changes to plastic and waste consumption occurs. Furthermore, tiny fragments of plastic known as ‘microplastics’ have been found in 83% of tap water samples taken all around the world. This, combined with the plastics being found in our seafood, is a clear pathway for entry into the human body.

Dr Ian Humphries from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful thinks the tide is starting to turn on marine litter, saying, “The damaging effects of littering, particularly of single use plastics that end up polluting our oceans, is clearly highlighted in this year’s report, which shows four items of litter for every step that we take along our coast. Thankfully, most people don’t litter, and growing awareness and calls for action spell the beginning of the end for this highly anti–social behaviour.”

The report also highlights the fantastic work being done by groups of volunteers from a range of different organisations. Over the course of 1,345 hours, 461 volunteers lifted 850 bags of rubbish across the ten beaches surveyed. This is just one form of environmental leadership outlined in the publication, which also draws attention to Ards and North Down Borough Council, who recently passed a motion to promote eco–friendly alternatives to single use plastics such as coffee cups and plastic straws. Schools have also been getting involved, with Mill Strand Integrated Primary School banning all plastic straws after one of their pupils saw a disturbing image of a turtle with a straw up its nose on social media.

The full report can now be downloaded from the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful website.

The marine litter surveys are carried out four times a year by trained members of staff and dedicated volunteers. The data collected is also used by DAERA and the OSPAR Commission.

Wed, 07 Mar 2018 11:10:26 +0000
<![CDATA[ Ambitious NI Agri Policy needed]]>  



The UK Government has today published a consultation on its plans for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU. The consultation entitled ‘Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit’ proposes that public money will no longer be given to farmers for the amount of land they own. Instead it will be allocated for the delivery of sustainable production, environmental enhancement, animal welfare and trialling new technologies to name a few. This will be a significant shift from the current EU funded Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) as DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove seeks fund contributions towards habitat management, flood protection and climate change mitigation.   

However, Nature Matters NI, a joint campaign of leading environmental NGOs, is concerned that without a Northern Ireland Executive, there is a real risk that NI will fall behind the rest of the UK.

John Martin, from the Nature Matters NI campaign said:

“Brexit offers a once in a generation opportunity to reform the NI’s agriculture policy in a way that delivers for farmers and for nature. We are glad to see the environment at the heart of proposals for England, however with no NI Assembly in operation there is no clarity on the future policy direction for Northern Ireland. We are pleased to see reference to working together with other devolved governments through common frameworks where necessary and adherence to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which highlights agriculture as an area of cooperation. However, there is a clear decision making and policy vacuum for future policy development in Northern Ireland that must be urgently addressed. The Defra consultation will inform the development of the Agriculture Bill which needs to pass through Westminster before we leave the EU (March 2019). Without a NI Assembly in place to form policy or legislate for any future changes, there is clear cause for concern.    

We would like to see the health of the environment at the heart of a future agriculture policy for Northern Ireland to ensure the industry is set on a sustainable path”.

John Carson, an organic farmer and chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network in NI said:

“There is nothing better than nature, farmers are the custodians of rural areas and we want people to enjoy the splendour of the countryside. More information and support is required from the Westminster Government to encourage more farmers to protect nature and wildlife in Northern Ireland.”

The Defra consultation opens today, and will last 10 weeks, closing on the 8th of May.



Nature Matters NI is a joint campaign of major environmental NGOs in Northern Ireland, working together to ensure the best deal for the environment post–Brexit. Created by the NIEL Brexit Coalition in response to the threats posed to environmental legislation and protections by leaving the EU, the campaign is advocating along three major strands: Nature and Environmental Protection; Agriculture and Land–Use Policies; and Marine and Fisheries Policies.

There are approximately 100,000 members of environmental organisations in Northern Ireland, so we know that people care about these issues.

The following organisations are currently involved in the campaign:

  • Buglife
  • Butterfly Conservation
  • Climate NI
  • Friends of the Earth
  • NI Bat Group
  • Northern Ireland Environment Link
  • Northern Ireland Marine Task Force
  • National Trust
  • The Woodland Trust
  • Ulster Angling Federation
  • Ulster Wildlife

If you require further information please contact:

Sairah Tariq

028 906 90851
077 0137 2477

Tue, 27 Feb 2018 15:24:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ Views sought on wildfire threat]]>  



An online public engagement exercise has been opened seeking your views about wildfires and what we can do to reduce the number of wildfires in the countryside and to reduce impacts to the environment and to communities when such incidents occur.

Please access and submit your views on the NI Direct Citizen Space Consultation web–page under the ‘Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside’ survey.

This engagement exercise will close on 16 March 2018.

This public engagement is part of project SAWA ‘Strategically Addressing Wildfire Arson’ which is being supported by the Department of Justice’s Assets Recovery Community Scheme.

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 11:52:03 +0000