Northern Ireland

PLATFORM: PeacePlus Programme to have environmental focus

Improving connectivity and enhancing sustainable methods of travel such as Belfast-Dublin rail service is a key aspect of Theme 5 of the PeacePlus programme
Improving connectivity and enhancing sustainable methods of travel such as Belfast-Dublin rail service is a key aspect of Theme 5 of the PeacePlus programme

Gina McIntyre

Chief executive of the Special EU Programmes Body

ENVIRONMENTAL considerations will top the agenda throughout 2023, with an ever-sharper focus on the impacts of climate change and the cost of energy on day-to-day living.

With significant support from the European Union across all its new funding programmes, help will be available for businesses, communities and central and local government for both adaptation and the mitigation of the effects of climate change.

With the visible effects of climate change comes an urgency to drive more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in how we go about our daily lives. In turn, this has ignited collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship to identify and implement climate solutions – something which we encourage at the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

But grassroots solutions need practical guidance and sustained support mechanisms. The increasing environmental ambition of local communities and businesses must be met with tangible funding streams.

Over the past ficw years, the Interreg VA programme provided financial support for key habitats and priority species, helping the region to meet biodiversity targets. Governments, councils and local communities all played a part in safeguarding their future and raising the awareness of their importance.

Over the past 25 years, the investment from the Peace and Interreg Programmes, managed and administered by the SEUPB, a cross-border body established within the Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement, has made a seismic impact on the lives of communities across Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland and western coast of Scotland. Funding has been provided for over 22,000 incredible projects.

Looking ahead, the new PeacePlus Programme is anticipated to launch in late spring and could not be more relevant or timely to continue this work. It has been designed to build on the foundations of previous projects, and to protect and preserve the hard-earned peace and prosperity across this region.

Theme 5 of PeacePlus – ‘Supporting a Sustainable and Better-Connected Future’ – will provide funding for environmental projects across Northern Ireland and the border counties which are underpinned by strategic cross-border and/or cross community collaboration.

The programme will restore natural habitats, protect against invasive species, and enhance the resilience of Northern Ireland and Ireland to the effects of climate change.

With marine and coastal environments under constant pressure, funding will help climate change adaptation and mitigation by supporting coastal habitats.

Improvement of water quality is always a core public health and environmental issue and, naturally, will be a further consideration in Theme 5, through investment in wastewater treatment programmes and nature-based solutions.

With energy consumption and security of supply at the forefront of consumers’ minds, PeacePlus will also take forward investment in geo-thermal energy. Establishing a cross border policy framework as part of an energy demonstration programme will support the widespread uptake of geothermal energy in the residential, industrial and public sectors.

It will also address fuel poverty and increase the attainment of local, national and EU decarbonisation and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. This will strengthen the local geothermal industry with economic benefits.

Finally, improving connectivity and enhancing sustainable methods of travelling is a key aspect of Theme 5 of the programme. A significant investment in sustainable rail stock will enable the introduction on an hourly cross-border rail service between Belfast and Dublin.

This investment in modern, safe, and sustainable rail infrastructure will put the region on the pathway to continuing to reduce carbon emissions, journey times and future-proofing this vital infrastructure resource.

Leaving a legacy for the future, successful projects will contribute to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of our citizens.

For more information about the PeacePlus Programme, visit