• 83% of government commitments in the Biodiversity Strategy fail to deliver targets • Urgent review of the strategy required, plus the development of new commitments underpinned by law
Wildlife and the natural environment in Northern Ireland are at crisis point after years of inaction, according to RSPB NI.
On the day that a UN report shows that the international community has failed in its decade-long effort to halt environmental decline, an RSPB NI review reveals that 83% of government commitments (35/42) set out in the 2015-2020 Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy have not been adequately met.
The conservation charity acknowledges that some piecemeal improvements have been made, but it is too little too late with no systematic, concerted effort to implement the outcomes of the strategy.
The Biodiversity Strategy, launched in 2015, was supposed to deliver a plan on how Northern Ireland could meet its local and international commitments to protect nature and ensure the environment can continue to support people and the economy. Instead, the strategy is coming to an end having spectacularly failed to deliver its objectives of halting and reversing declines in our natural environment.
These are just three examples of the lack of progress:
- Water quality is going backwards under the agreed Water Framework Directive targets. Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ own 2020 analysis shows that there has been a deterioration in the water quality of Northern Ireland's lakes and rivers since previous surveys in 2015 and 2018
- There has been a failure to complete crucial protected area designations for habitats and species that are internationally important, including hen harriers, curlews and redshanks.
- Vital reviews have not yet taken place. For example, a review of ‘Strategic Planning Policy Statement’ to ensure that measures to promote nature in planning decisions remain appropriate has not even been started.
RSPB NI believes that the Biodiversity Strategy commitments were inadequate to begin with and is today calling for an urgent review of the strategy, as well as the development of new commitments underpinned by law to ensure action is taken.
RSPB NI Director Joanne Sherwood said: “It is imperative that the Northern Ireland Executive’s strategy matches both the nature emergency we face and growing positive public attitudes towards nature and wildlife in Northern Ireland.
“The NI Executive’s failure to deliver our Biodiversity Strategy and the lack of achievement of wider international targets is a wakeup call that things need to change today.
“Nature is our life support system and as we begin to rebuild our economy in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NI Assembly needs to play a leading role in delivering a green recovery and making commitments in law to secure the future of our environment.”
And the picture across the UK – and across the world – is equally bleak.
Today sees the publication of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, which outlines a list of achievable actions needed to protect nature. It comes 10 years after the ‘Aichi Targets’ were hailed as the blueprint for saving life on Earth and reversing the terrible losses in wildlife and the natural environment.
Of the 20 ‘Aichi Targets’ the UK Government pledged to meet under the International Convention on Biodiversity in 2010, its own assessment shows that it has achieved just five – but this is not the whole picture. Across the UK, the RSPB can reveal that just three targets to save nature agreed to a decade ago have been met – and on six of the 20 targets the UK has actually gone backwards.
To get nature’s recovery back on track, the RSPB is launching the Revive Our World campaign, pushing for legally binding targets to restore nature by 2030 and to ensure there is not another decade of failure.
Joanne Sherwood added: “In Northern Ireland, without laws to enforce protection and restoration, 11% of species are threatened with extinction. If people don’t want to endure devastating losses in nature in Northern Ireland - and the impact this will have on our health and economy - targets must be enshrined in law. This will be vital as we work towards a green recovery in Northern Ireland.”