Our response to the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs' (DAERA) draft Ammonia Strategy calls on the department to be more coherent in its plan.
While welcoming the department’s overall ambition to reduce damaging ammonia emissions the OEP’s consultation response identifies six key areas where the proposals should be strengthened in order to deliver on its environment improvement goal.
Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP, said: “The Ammonia Strategy is critically important for DAERA as it set its ambition to reduce ammonia emissions that will ultimately help protect the environment and public health.
“We have set out recommendations in our response that we hope will assist and make the Ammonia Strategy more likely to achieve its goal of significant environment improvement.”
The OEP is an independent body that protects and improves the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account. Its powers were extended to cover Northern Ireland in February 2022. We are responding to this consultation under Schedule 1 Paragraph 8 of the Environment Act (2021) .
The OEP’s consultation response makes the following recommendations to DAERA:
- That it develops a clearer package of consistently worded targets, which in combination represent a coherent and ambitious vision for measurable ammonia reduction in Northern Ireland.
- A comprehensive action plan for the delivery and evaluation of the final Ammonia Strategy and the 2030 targets is published.
- The final Ammonia Strategy should set out a long-term roadmap for achieving the 2050 emissions target, considering a wider range of drivers and pressures.
- An updated Operational Protocol for assessing air quality impacts is published without further delay.
- The full evidence base and underlying assumptions used in the development of the draft Ammonia Strategy is published.
- The final Ammonia Strategy’s links with, and impacts on, other major policies and commitments, both national and international are clearly mapped.
Dame Glenys added: “If it can be delivered the Ammonia Strategy provides the opportunity to demonstrate that DAERA is leading the way toward rebalancing the protection of the environment with growth in the agri-food industry. It also signals a clear commitment to reverse the high levels of ammonia and adverse trend in ammonia emissions, and to wider environmental stewardship.”
Malcom Beatty OBE, the Northern Ireland Board Member of the OEP, said the lack of detail in relation to the funding and training of farmers to adopt the measures set out in the proposed plan needs to be addressed.
He said: “Farmers are justifiably proud of the food they produce and their role as stewards of the land – and this consultation paper shows what more needs to be done. The air we breathe affects us all, yet the draft Ammonia Strategy relies heavily on the farming community’s ability and willingness to adopt the measures set out – and they will need help. We in the OEP believe that the level of funding, the changes needed to make technology transfer possible, and the training needed to support farmers are not adequately addressed.
“This will significantly impact on farmers ability to respond, with knock-on consequences for achieving the targets.”
The full consultation response can be found by clicking on the blue button on this page.
Commissioned research to inform OEP's consultation response
Environmental consultants Ricardo were commissioned by the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) to review the draft Northern Ireland Ammonia Strategy and provide expert opinion and knowledge on its scope and content. The views expressed in its report are those of Ricardo, and do not represent the opinion or position of the OEP.
The report addressed high-level questions on whether the actions proposed in the draft Ammonia Strategy were reasonable, sufficient, and achievable, whether there were any apparent gaps, and a review of the supporting data presented. Ricardo also provided support on the more technical questions around the feasibility and suitability of specific ammonia mitigation measures. We were able to use the report provided by Ricardo to support our own analysis and response to the draft Northern Ireland Ammonia Strategy public consultation.