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    New Decade, New Approach 20 January 2020

    A response from the Environment Sector

     

    Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) welcomes the publication of “New Decade, New Approach1” and the creation of a new NI Executive, bringing to an end three years without devolved government, which has stymied action on a wide range of environmental issues, including the long running decline in biodiversity, tackling climate change and managing the environment post–Brexit.

    The commitment to establish a much–needed Independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is particularly welcome, as is the intention to bring forward a Climate Change Act along with ambitious targets and actions for a fair and just transition to a zero carbon society. The commitment to greater civic engagement in issues that affect all of us, through a Citizen’s Assembly for example, is also welcomed by NIEL.

    Patrick Casement, Chair of NIEL says:

    “There are many positive proposals in ‘New Decade, New Approach’ and we look forward to working with the Executive and the new Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to these issues.

    “The other administrations have had national climate change legislation and targets in place for many years and NIEL hopes that a NI Climate Change Act with appropriate, evidence–informed targets to ensure NI is a net zero carbon society no later than 2050, will be brought forward as soon as possible.

    “It is essential however, that these actions and policies that will ensure we move to net zero carbon, protect biodiversity, reduce pollution and tackle climate change are woven in to other strategies, including the economic strategy and the new Strategic Energy Framework. In order to achieve sustainable development, greater cross–departmental collaboration is required between Ministers and their departments if the ambition set out within the document is to be realised,” said Mr Casement. 

    NIEL has recently collaborated with NICVA and other cross–sectoral partners to produce a new document which lists shared key environmental asks for Northern Ireland: “Our Common Purpose for the Environment2”.

    Craig McGuicken, Chief Executive of NIEL adds:

    “We are pleased that some of the key asks within the Our Common Purpose document in terms of the creation of an independent EPA and Climate Change legislation are reflected in the Executive’s plans.

    “However, a number of additional asks remain including: Introduction of a Northern Ireland Environment Bill to give the anticipated first ever Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland a binding, legal footing; support for sustainable farming to incentivise farmers and landowners to undertake environmental initiatives on a ‘Public Money for Public Goods’ basis; and mainstreaming of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through a NI ‘Well–being of Future Generations Act’, based on the Welsh experience.”

    NIEL has written to the new Minister seeking a meeting to discuss the Executive’s environmental commitments and put forward the views of the environment sector in relation to how we can work together to achieve these important environmental targets.


    ENDS


    Notes to editors:

    1. The environmental commitments listed within the New Decade, New Approach document are as follows:

    Climate Change (on pages 43 & 44)

    • The Executive’s strategies to reduce carbon emissions will be reviewed in light of the Paris Climate Change Accord and the climate crisis.
    • A new Energy Strategy will set ambitious targets and actions for a fair and just transition to a zero carbon society.
    • The Executive should bring forward a Climate Change Act to give environmental targets a strong legal underpinning.
    • The Executive will establish an Independent Environmental Protection Agency to oversee this work and ensure targets are met.
    • The Economic Strategy will support clean and inclusive growth and create jobs as part of a Green New Deal.
    • The Executive will create a plan to eliminate plastic pollution.
    • RHI will be closed down and replaced by a scheme that effectively cuts carbon emissions.

    2. The aim of Our Common Purpose for the Environment is to set out a brief number of key actions and principles which we (the signatories) believe are required to create an Environment fit for current and future generations.

    If you wish to sign up to this Common Purpose please email info@nienvironmentlink.org, providing name of organisation and contact details.