Researchers from the Brexit and Environment network have stated that the Environment Bill needs to be amended in order “to work effectively and legitimately” in Northern Ireland (NI). This extension was a necessary step in order to avoid gaps post-Brexit (see more in Brexit Watch n°13). The main adjustments that will need to be made relate to objectives and principles, as well as the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).
The researchers have called for binding objectives and principles, including non-regression or environmental improvement that should apply to all actors during all stages of environmental governance. An over-arching environmental objective should also be defined in the Bill.
It is also essential to take into account the special political and biogeographic case of NI. Authors point to NI’s history of poor environmental governance, and the limitations of financial resources and political will on environmental issues. In addition, its independent environmental agency (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) is situated within government offices. The OEP should therefore include provision for NI expertise for example through an additional office in NI, and by appointment of NI members.