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NFFN NI Consultation Response: Environment Strategy

What is the consultation?

On the 11th November 2021, the Department for Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs published a consultation on a draft Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland. This Strategy aims to set out a set of coherent and effective interventions which seek to deliver improvements in the quality of the environment in Northern Ireland. In doing so, it aims to improve health and well-being for everyone, elevate Northern Ireland to an environmental leader, create opportunities to develop the economy and protect the environment in the long term. 

Why should nature-friendly farming be concerned?

Successful, profitable farming is utterly reliant on a clean, healthy and thriving natural environment. Northern Ireland’s first Environment Strategy sets forward a range of different recommendations interventions at improving the state and quality of the environment here. It recognises the role of farming and land management in meeting these aims, alongside the need for investment in farming practices that work to restore biodiversity, mitigate and adapt to climate change, reduce flood risk and improve air and water quality. If appropriately designed and sufficiently ambitious, the Environment Strategy can play a key role in supporting nature-friendly farming in Northern Ireland.

What are the NFFN’s key recommendations?

We welcome the aims of the Strategy to tackle the major challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental degradation across the breadth of the Executive. We also welcome the recognition that a healthy environment is linked with our health and well-being and that long-term planning is essential to protect and restore natural capital for future generations. Above all, we are pleased to see nature-friendly farming is seen as a key vehicle in securing the outcomes it seeks to deliver. 

However, the Executive has failed to deliver on a range of previous environmental commitments, with significant impacts on nature and the environment. Water quality is going backwards, over one in ten species faces the risk of extinction and nearly all of our best sites for nature are failing to meet good condition. This situation must not continue, if we continue to erode our natural capital, which is the foundation of a stable prosperous economy, we will all be poorer as a result. 

Although the draft Strategy contains a range of welcome strategic environmental outcomes, there is a clear need for increased ambition in order to effectively rise to the challenge of addressing the nature and climate emergency, with clear actions and targets driving this forward across the Executive. There are several improvements that must be made to ensure that the Strategy provides the required level of ambition and is focused on meeting specific and measurable environmental outcomes. 

Read our consultation response here.