Advice on DAERA’s draft Environmental Principles Policy Statement

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has provided advice on the draft Environmental Principles Policy Statement (EPPS) for Northern Ireland, following a request from DAERA.

The department asked for our advice on a draft statement that covers five environmental principles set out in law. Once it has been finalised, ministers and Northern Ireland departments will have a legal duty to be guided by the statement when making policy.

We welcome the draft statement as an important step in how policymakers will fulfill their legal obligations under the Environmental Act 2021.

However, we recommend the draft policy statement is strengthened in a number of areas to ensure that protecting and improving the environment is at the centre of future policymaking in Northern Ireland.

OEP CEO Natalie Prosser said: “We welcome the steps DAERA has taken towards preparing the EPPS, and the proactive seeking of our advice prior to wider consultation. We also commend DAERA’s efforts in having developed a clear, usable, and impactful draft EPPS. 

“Our advice identifies strengths in the draft EPPS as well as areas that could be improved. We consider the most pressing challenge is to ensure that adherence to the duty to have due regard to the EPPS is not translated into an onerous checklist for policymakers, or viewed as something to be fulfilled via a tick box approach after policy has been developed. 

“Rather, it should be properly disseminated to the appropriate audience of policymakers and incorporated from the outset into every stage of policymaking, including the early consideration of options.

“We have developed our advice with a view to supporting DAERA and other Northern Ireland departments in realising these outcomes.

“Our advice also highlights the need for effective governance, oversight, and assurance frameworks to support effective application of the EPPS. This should include regular review and reporting on application of the statement by DAERA and other departments.”