Environment Minister Edwin Poots has introduced further environmental protections through a range of new legislative provisions.
The Environment (2021 Act) (Commencement and Saving Provision) Order (Northern Ireland) 2022 brings into force a range of environmental measures, including a new legal framework for environmental governance and accountability now that the UK has left the EU. It was approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 22 February 2022.
The key elements of this framework are statutory duties on DAERA to publish an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), issue a policy statement on environmental principles, and the extension of the remit of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) to include Northern Ireland.
Welcoming the Assembly’s approval of this legislation, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “These measures will not only enhance existing environmental protections but will create mechanisms that will benefit future generations through a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable Northern Ireland.
“Protecting and enhancing our environment is a priority for my Department and I am pleased to introduce these new provisions to further safeguard our planet. It is vital that Northern Ireland continues to play its part in the wider environment and climate change agendas and these provisions will enable us to do so. The independent advice from the OEP is very welcome to ensure good environmental governance.”
On the news that the OEP would be functioning here from 28 February, Chair, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: “This is another significant step for environmental improvement and protection, and a welcome new responsibility for the OEP. We look forward to getting on with the job and are confident we can make a positive difference for Northern Ireland’s environment and its people.”
The OEP was legally established in November 2021 and will operate as an independent environmental oversight body across England and Northern Ireland, a role previously undertaken by the European Commission. The new body’s purpose is to hold public authorities to account for the proper implementation of environmental law. Its Northern Ireland functions include: scrutinising environmental improvement plans; scrutinising environmental law; advising NI Departments on environmental law; and enforcing against failures to comply with environmental law.
Notes to editors:
- The NI Provisions are contained within the Environment Act 2021 which received Royal Assent on 9 November 2021.
- The majority of the NI Provisions are enabling powers which will allow secondary legislation to be created in respect of: producer responsibility; waste; resource efficiency; charges for single use plastic items and carrier bags; water; and chemicals.
- The waste and resource efficiency measures in the Environment Act will help to deliver a circular economy in which resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible and waste is minimised.
- The provisions relating to preparing and publishing an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) and a statement on environmental principles come into force on 25 July 2022, with the remaining NI provisions commencing on 28 February.
- The first Northern Ireland EIP will be the Environment Strategy currently under development.
- NI Departments and UK Government Ministers will be required to have due regard to the statement on environmental principles when making policy for Northern Ireland. The five principles that will be included in the statement are:
- the principle that environmental protection should be integrated into the making of policies;
- the principle of preventative action to avert environmental damage;
- the precautionary principle, so far as relating to the environment;
- the principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source; and
- the polluter pays principle.
- The OEP is currently carrying out a consultation on its draft strategy and enforcement policy, which will cover all of the OEP’s functions. The consultation will run until 22 March 2022 and can be accessed through the OEP website.
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