Dolores Kelly MLA
The Member's Position

The need to take action to protect, restore and enhance nature has never been more urgent. The recent State of Nature reports paint a stark picture of nature’s decline and the harmful human, environmental and economic consequences of such loss. Indeed, Northern Ireland (NI) has lost more wildlife than any other part of the UK; 11% (272) of species in NI are threatened with extinction; and only 1 of 21 lakes is good quality.

The majority of Northern Ireland’s environmental protections are currently based in European Union (EU) legislation and there is a growing risk that these will be weakened or lost altogether due to Brexit. Work that has so far been done to maintain EU environmental law in NI and UK law, is welcome, however there is an opportunity to go further, by adopting new legislation that will not only halt environmental destruction and wildlife decline but restore nature and secure the health of our unique environment for future generations.

It isn’t just wildlife that is suffering. A degraded environment also has an impact on citizens. There is also increasing evidence of the link between the environment and public health. This includes obvious connections – for example air pollution is linked to 500 premature deaths a year in NI, and rising sea levels leaving coastal areas at risk of flooding and erosion - but also less obvious connections such as mental wellbeing.

Dolores Kelly MLA (SDLP) is proposing the introduction of an Environment and Nature Restoration Bill. Ms Kelly views the lack of substantive action in Northern Ireland for the protection, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment as a major problem. She agrees that establishing effective governance mechanisms and targets in law for natures recovery is imperative and endorses commitments made in these New Decade New Approach Agreement.

Ms Kelly argues that not only will the introduction of the Environment and Nature Restoration Bill benefit the environment, but this change will benefit society and the wider economy. The questions in this consultation are intended to gather public views to better inform and improve legislation to protect, restore and enhance the natural environment. 

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* 1. Are you responding as;

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* 2. Which of the following best describes you?

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* 3. Do you agree that Northern Ireland should have stronger laws to protect nature?

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* 4. Do you agree that the aim of the Bill should be to achieve and maintain a healthy natural environment?

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* 5. Do you agree that Northern Ireland should have an independent Environmental Protection Agency?

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* 6. Do you believe that there should be both short and long-term targets for nature's recovery, covering areas of air quality, biodiversity, water quality, marine life, and resource efficiency and waste reduction, for Northern Ireland?

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* 7. Do you agree that, as one of the most harmful pollutants to human health, the Bill should aim to reduce fine particulate matter?

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* 8. Do you agree that independent expert advice should help drive the scope and ambition of targets to protect and restore the natural environment?

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* 9. Do you agree that all government departments should be required to meet the environment and nature restoration targets?

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* 10. Should the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs be required to report on whether targets have been met or not, and explain why?

Please comment:

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* 11. Do you agree that achievement of targets should be measures on the basis of a significant improvement test?

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* 12. Environmental principles offer protection to the natural environment by providing guidance to public authorities when making decisions on issues such as new laws, planning applications, and management of protected areas.

Do you agree that public bodies should be required to apply the environmental principles including: precautionary principle, principle of preventative action, polluter pays principle, principle that environmental damage should be rectified at source, principle of non-regression of environmental standards, and the principle of avoiding transboundary harm?

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* 13. Do you believe that current environmental legislation in Northern Ireland is sufficient/adequate for meeting the joint climate and ecological crisis?

Please comment:

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* 14. Do you agree that DEARA should commit to prohibiting the regression of environmental standards?

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* 15. Do you believe that planning and developments should create a net gain for biodiversity?

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* 16. Do you agree that a) all public authorities b) Northern Irish Departments c) both departments and public authorities should be required to act in a manner that conserves and enhances the natural environment?

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* 17. Do you agree that Northern Ireland should create a wildlife-rich nature recovery network?

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* 18. If you do not agree with the Member's proposal, what alternative proposal would you support to achieve this policy objective?

Please comment:

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* 19. If you do not agree with the Member's proposal, what adjustment to the proposal would win your support?

Please comment:

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* 20. Please share any other comments you have below:

Thank you for completing the survey.

If you have any further questions or comments regarding this consultation and the proposed bill please email:
dolores.kelly@mla.niassembly.gov.uk

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