Guest blog by Dr. Jane Clarke, Nature Protection Policy Officer, RSPB NI

MLA's at Stormont with RSPB NI - Ciara Ferguson, Philip McGuigan, John Blair, Dolores Kelly

From making space for bugs and birds in our gardens, to nature friendly farming everyone has a role to play to revive our world, especially the NI Executive.

To turn the tide on nature’s decline, all departments must work together, and the new draft Environment Strategy should be an action plan to do this. However, at RSPB NI, we feel it lacks ambition and because commitments are not legally-binding, the strategy will not adequately address the nature emergency in Northern Ireland – that’s why we are asking you to respond to the public consultation. We want you to raise your voice for nature to make sure this crisis is met with the urgency and ambition required. Read on to find out more about the consultation and how you can help:

Tell DAERA you want ambitious action to revive our world by responding to the public consultation here. Our key concerns are discussed below…

If the recent coverage surrounding the global climate conference (COP26) has left you in any doubt, we are currently in a nature and climate emergency, and it is essential we act now. Nature across Northern Ireland is facing a range pressures from climate change to damaging practices even in places where it is protected by law. Despite having some of the most beautiful landscapes and being home to many precious species, Northern Ireland ranks 12th worst out of 240 countries and territories for biodiversity loss.

The Department for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is currently consulting on a plan to restore nature – the Environment Strategy.

The draft Strategy sets out 225 actions that Northern Ireland departments are to take to improve our natural environment. There are good commitments in the strategy including protecting 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, protection of our precious seabirds and recognition of the key role of nature friendly farming. However, as currently written many of these actions lack detail, are unambitious, and are without a timeframe. We are really concerned that the strategy will not effectively deliver the crisis response required, especially as the Executive failed to meet over 80% of targets in the last Biodiversity Strategy.

At RSPB NI, we want to see a strategy that matches the scale of the issue and ensure that the Executive is compelled to act now. That is why we are responding to the consultation and calling on DAERA to be more ambitious, more specific, and commit to bringing forward legally binding targets for nature’s restoration. We need your help to make our calls heard!

What you can do?

We need you to join us in responding to the public consultation - here  telling DAERA that:

  • We need legislation to restore nature: the Environment Strategy must be underpinned by legally-binding targets for nature’s recovery.

  • Targets must be clear and ambitious: actions and targets in the Strategy must be specific, measurable, and time-bound, with long-term ambition supported by interim milestones.

  • Commit to implementing and monitoring the Environment Strategy: to be effective the Environment Strategy must have dedicated, and long-term resourcing. A team should be established within DAERA to drive ambition and action across the Executive, as well as develop and carry out robust and transparent monitoring.  

  • Nature on land must be restored and improved: targets to protect more of our precious habitats and species must drive improvement in condition, be supported by more robust monitoring and evaluation, and connect wider ecological networks.

  • Our seas must be better protected and restored: marine biodiversity decline must be reversed and our activities at sea sustainably managed. Marine environments must be restored and protected, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.

  • The future of agriculture must be nature friendly: NI needs a new Agricultural Act no later than 2026, which rewards farmers and land managers for delivering public goods such as enhancing & restoring nature, mitigating climate change & reducing pollution alongside providing nutritious, affordable food for all.

  • Planning and development must be done in harmony with nature:  For too long, new housing and infrastructure development has been one of the causes of nature’s decline, we must move to a system wherein wildlife habitats are enhanced rather than harmed or lost.

  • The strategy must prioritise the role of restoring nature and nature based solutions including woodland, peatland, seagrass beds and kelp forests - in achieving net-zero in Northern Ireland by 2045.

We need you to raise your voice for nature, support our response and help us Revive Our World. If you want to keep up to date on our progress, make sure you sign up as a Campaigner to receive our monthly newsletter. It will also give you news on our campaign to Revive Our World and secure targets in law for nature’s recovery by 2030.

left - RSPB NI Staff right - John Martin, Joanne Sherwood, Daithi McKay, Jane Clark, Ruby Free RSPB NI Youth Campaigners - Emanuele Miccolis, Craig Holmes, Dakota Reid, Matt Woods, Stephanie McEvoy

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