New legal framework for environmental governance in Northern Ireland introduced

New legal framework for environmental governance in Northern Ireland introduced

Edwin Poots

A new legal framework for environmental governance and accountability in Northern Ireland following Brexit has been introduced.

The Environment (2021 Act) (Commencement and Saving Provision) Order (Northern Ireland) 2022 places statutory duties on DAERA to publish an Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) and issue a policy statement on environmental principles, and extends of the remit of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) to include Northern Ireland.

Environmental 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.”

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.

Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the OEP, 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.”

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