Biodiversity is recognised as an issue for all Northern Ireland Departments. They are all currently striving to meet the recommendations of the NI Biodiversity Strategy which include some of the priorities set out in the recent EU Communication on “Halting the loss of Biodiversity by 2010—and beyond” issued in May 2006. Further work is ongoing to incorporate the EU Communication targets into Departmental Biodiversity Action Plans which are being developed as part of the sustainable development strategy implementation plan launched on 26 November.
Biodiversity is a key aspect of sustainable development and is an integral part of the sustainable development strategy and its implementation plan.
The Department of the Environment has made substantial progress in meeting the objectives of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy, which incorporates many of the EU Communication’s priorities. For example, the Environment and Heritage Service has been delivering action plans for species and habitats which have declined or suffered biodiversity loss and require conservation action. This includes the designation and management of statutory designated sites such as Natura 2000 and Areas of Special Scientific Interest.
The Department of the Environment has recently employed a biodiversity officer to assist Departments to devise biodiversity action plans which will incorporate relevant targets set out in the EU Communication “Halting the Loss of Biodiversity by 2010—and beyond”. This officer will also offer practical assistance to Departments to embrace nature conservation aspects when undertaking their functions. This stance builds on the continued resourcing for biodiversity elsewhere in Government. This notably includes work being undertaken by the Environment and Heritage Service in designating and managing statutory nature conservation sites, as well as funding a broad range of biodiversity projects and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development funding of agri-environment schemes.
The DOE, in line with other Departments, will review its current commitments to consider what additional aspects of the EU Communication can be undertaken.
The Department of the Environment is committed to reviewing the policies and recommendations of the Northern Ireland biodiversity strategy to incorporate the targets included in the EU Communication “Halting the loss of Biodiversity by 2010—and beyond”. This review will influence, and be a key component of, the implementation of the priority area of “natural resource protection” identified in the sustainable development strategy.
The ongoing development and revision of planning policies will continue to contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity.
Progress in achieving the recommendations of the Northern Ireland biodiversity strategy is regularly monitored and an independent progress report is submitted to Government every three years. Any relevant additional targets to be incorporated into this process that flow from the EU Communication “Halting the loss of Biodiversity by 2010—and beyond” will be included in the next progress report, scheduled for September 2008.
In addition, the EU Communication sets out to develop a small set of “biodiversity headline indicators” by 2007. These indicators, which are currently being considered by devolved administrations within the UK, are intended to inform member states of the effectiveness of key policies and pressures affecting the trends of biodiversity within the EC.