Northern Ireland

Brexit exacerbated challenges for cross-border collaboration on environmental policy and governance, says report

Ben Crom reservoir in the Mournes. Picture by Mal McCann
Ben Crom reservoir in the Mournes. Picture by Mal McCann Ben Crom reservoir in the Mournes. Picture by Mal McCann

The UK's departure from the EU has exacerbated the challenges for cross-border collaboration on environmental policy and governance, according to a new report.

The 'Linking the Irish Environment' report launched in Belfast on Wednesday says Brexit raised "valid concerns" around declining environmental standards and regulatory divergence, as well as "uncertainty" over policy and governance.

Compiled by the umbrella bodies representing a range of environmental organisations on each respective side of the border, the report said collaboration, funding, and greater use of the Good Friday Agreement were key to protecting nature across the island.

It warns that diverging environmental policies and regulations in the two jurisdictions could have a detrimental impact on Ireland's landscapes, waterways, flora and fauna. 

The report said divergence is also likely to make it increasingly difficult for environment groups and bodies on each side of the border to collaborate. 

It said the challenges can be mitigated by a joint political or legal environment commitment between the Irish and British governments, in the absence of a devolved administration.

The report urges greater utilisation of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure cross-border collaboration, including the establishment of an all-island civic forum on environmental matters, while also advocating greater financial for environmental groups on both sides of the border.

It said the north and the Republic have "almost completely segregated environmental governance structures" and that the potential for divergence was greater since Brexit.

Aoife Ní Lochlainn of the Irish Environmental Network said: “We are living in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, and it is important to highlight that the natural world knows no borders – the island of Ireland shares one environment. 

"NGOs (non governmental organisations) working to protect the environment have been collaborating and working together the past number of years to ensure a collective approach in our efforts to protect the environment and implement high standards of environmental governance and protection.”