RSPB NI calls for legally-binding conservation targets

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Northern Ireland (RSPB NI) is calling for legally-binding targets to restore nature in the region as it warns NI’s wildlife and the natural environment are at “crisis point”.

The review carried out by the conservation charity claims that 83% of government commitments (35 out of 42) set out in the 2015-2020 Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy have not been adequately met.

It acknowledges that some improvements have been made, but warns this 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.

However, the charity says it has “spectacularly failed to deliver its objectives” of halting and reversing declines in the natural environment.

In response, it is launching its ‘Revive Our World’ campaign, pushing for legally-binding targets to restore nature by 2030.

The review by RSPB NI claimed water quality is “going backwards” under the agreed Water Framework Directive targets.

“Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs 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,” it read.

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.”

‘A wake-up call’

RSPB NI director Joanne Sherwood said the findings were a ‘wake-up call’.

“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,” she said.

The NI Executive’s failures to deliver our Biodiversity Strategy and the lack of achievement of wider international targets is a wake-up 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.”