Biodiversity

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 25th May 2021.

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Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 25th May 2021

6. Dr Archibald asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what action he is taking to reverse the damage to our biodiversity as a result of human activity. (AQO 2109/17-22)

Photo of Pam Cameron Pam Cameron DUP

9. Mrs Cameron asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage biodiversity and habitat creation in urban settings, including in private gardens. (AQO 2112/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to group questions 6 and 9 together.

My Department has commenced preparations for a new Northern Ireland biodiversity strategy that will take account of the international post-2020 targets for biodiversity. Those targets will be discussed at the forthcoming international meeting known as COP15, the fifteen meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The COP15 meeting is scheduled for 11 to 24 October 2021 in Kunming, China.

A major feature of COP15 will be the agreement to protect 30% of the planet by 2030, often referred to as the "30 by 30" target. I endorse the 30 by 30 target, and my Department is considering how best to achieve that. Protecting and restoring biodiversity in Northern Ireland is a long-term commitment. The actions that we take now will enable Northern Ireland to meet the overarching global 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature.

I recognise the importance of encouraging biodiversity in the urban environment. Priority habitats such as rivers, ponds and open mosaic habitats on previously developed land underline the importance of habitats in urban areas and the need to promote those special places for nature. My Department is involved in a number of initiatives to promote urban biodiversity, including the promotion of the all-Ireland pollinator plan in working with local communities to create and protect habitats for pollinators, such as by having urban pollinator-friendly planting and sustainable parks management. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Eco-Schools work to inform, support and promote biodiversity and habitat creation and receive funding from the Department to carry out that work.

DAERA works with councils to advise on the development of biodiversity strategies, green infrastructure plans, the designation of local nature reserves, conservation actions to support biodiversity and habitat creation and conservation in urban areas. The Department also gives advice to the public on wildlife-friendly gardening —

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

The Minister's two minutes is up.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

— recognising the importance of urban gardens in providing a refuge for biodiversity.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive answer. A number of studies, including the 'State of Nature' report, the National Biodiversity Forum report and the 'Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland' report, have shown very worrying trends in our biodiversity. The 'State of Nature' report showed that 11% of species assessed were under threat of extinction on the island of Ireland. Will the Minister agree that we are experiencing a biodiversity crisis?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I absolutely recognise that we need to do more biodiversity work, and that is one of the reasons why I have commissioned a peatlands strategy, for example. That strategy is close to completion and will be made public during this session of the Assembly. The peatlands strategy is an important piece of work for a very large part of our biodiversity — not the only part, but a large part. We also need to encourage pollination in urban and agricultural settings to ensure that we can continue to promote wildlife and biodiversity right across our country.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

There is time for a very brief question in response.

Photo of Pam Cameron Pam Cameron DUP

I thank the Minister for his very detailed answer. Obviously, there is a great renewed interest in biodiversity, especially given the last year. Can the Minister tell us a bit more about the actions that he is taking to increase overall biodiversity?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My Department has commenced preparations for a new Northern Ireland biodiversity strategy. The strategy will implement the international post-2020 targets for biodiversity that will be agreed when the COP15 meets later this year.

Protecting and restoring biodiversity in Northern Ireland is a long-term commitment. The actions that we take now will enable Northern Ireland to meet the overarching global 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature. That is critically important.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 25th May 2021

That ends the period for listed questions. We now move to 15 minutes of topical questions.