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14th December 2020

Nature Matters NI warns of post–Brexit environmental governance gap

As UK and EU negotiators continue last ditch efforts to agree a future trade deal, Nature Matters fears that a gap in how we look after the environment will hamper local ambitions after the Brexit transition period.

Government departments in Northern Ireland have been working hard to transpose EU legislation into the NI statute to ensure the same level of environmental standards and compliance remain once the transition period ends December 31 2020. However, concern remains relating to gaps in environmental governance, future agriculture policy, fisheries and cross border cooperation, all of which were previously managed in cooperation with the EU.

John Martin, Nature Matters Project Manager said: “With the end of the transition period clear on the horizon, significant threats to Northern Ireland’s environment remain. Some progress has been made by the UK and NI governments in delivering environmental objectives. The Agriculture and Fisheries Acts have passed in Westminster and there is also an Environment Bill due, all of which have provisions for Northern Ireland. However, the absence of primary legislation for agriculture, fisheries and the environment in the Northern Ireland Assembly leaves a significant environmental governance gap for Northern Ireland come December 31 2020. This is a matter of grave concern.”

From the outset of Brexit negotiations, Nature Matters NI has been clear on the environmental needs for Northern Ireland:

  1. Primary legislation on sustainable agriculture for Northern Ireland focusing on the concept of ‘public money for public goods’ such as protecting nature, delivering clean water and climate change adaptation
  2. Maintaining existing environmental legislation and significantly improving environmental governance through primary legislation in an environment bill
  3. Primary legislation on sustainable fisheries that supports commercial fish stocks and helps recover the wider marine environment
  4. Maintenance of funding streams to help society to restore nature and climate
  5. Continued cross border cooperation between North and South and the island of Ireland to be viewed as a single biogeographic unit

Environmental challenges remain as critical as ever and the public want decisive action on climate, nature loss, air and water quality. It will now be up to the NI Assembly to decide how to progress these vital pieces of legislation. As world economies begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and the UK navigates its position outside of the EU, Nature Matters NI believes there has never been a better time to set Northern Ireland on a sustainable footing to help meet the challenges of the climate and nature crisis.

More News from Nature Matters NI…

eNGOs warn of serious risk to NI environment if UK leaves the EU without a deal

The future of farming – DAERA must act now

75% of the Northern Ireland public feel that politicians need to do more to protect wildlife and nature

Fisheries Bill for the UK: how will Northern Ireland’s waters be managed?

NI farming risks being left in the past

Nature Matters NI response to Northern Ireland Future Agricultural Policy Framework

Belfast Food Network and Nature Matters NI Letter on Farming and Food

Post Brexit fisheries regime could leave Northern Ireland in the lurch

Northern Ireland’s Environmental Governance At Risk of Disappearing Post–Brexit

Northern Ireland environmental governance at risk of being left in limbo as England moves forward with proposals for watchdog

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Inquiry: Opportunities and challenges for Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU

Nature Matters NI Brexit Position Statements

Health and harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit – Nature Matters NI response

“Ambitious NI Agriculture policy needed” – Nature Matters NI

Nature Matters NI join UFU at Farming & Environment Roadshows

Policy Briefing: The Future of Agricultural Support in Northern Ireland

“25 Year Plan needed for Northern Ireland’s environment”

EU Committee told North–South co–operation “vital” post–Brexit

Environmental co–operation on the Brexit agenda