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New poll shows that people in Northern Ireland want stronger protections for nature

Puffin pictured on Rathlin Island, County Antrim. Credit: Andy Hay

To mark the start of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), RSPB NI has today released the results of a poll that shows that the majority of people (84%) in Northern Ireland support stronger protection for nature here. 


The survey also found that 71% believe we should have targets in law for nature’s restoration, in the same way that we have targets in other priority areas such as education or health.  



RSPB NI says that it is vital that the Executive and Assembly at Stormont is restored. Without a functioning government, Northern Ireland’s environment and habitats cannot get the attention they need and deserve.  


The research was conducted to support the leading conservation charity’s Nature Positive NI campaign which launched in November and aims to put nature at the heart of government decision-making by inspiring the development of an ambitious Biodiversity Strategy.  


At the COP15 Conference in Montreal this week, global leaders will meet to negotiate agreements on a new Global Plan for Nature.



At its heart, it is a plan to halt, and start to reverse, the decline of nature by 2030. The UK Government is committed to signing up to this new global plan. But each of the devolved regions will be responsible for realising these commitments.  


RSPB NI’s poll, conducted on their behalf by LucidTalk, demonstrates a clear link between public opinion and calls from environmentalists and conservation organisations for targets in law to tackle biodiversity loss, and supports the charity’s hopes for ambitious action to be taken at COP15 this month to address the nature and climate emergency. 


Commenting on the results, John Martin, Head of Policy and Advocacy at RSPB NI said:


“The results of this opinion poll highlight, once again, that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland know that nature here is in crisis, and that they believe we need much stronger laws in place to save our precious wildlife. Much loved and iconic species such as puffins and red squirrels, alongside the habitats that make up our unique landscapes such as the Causeway Coast and Fermanagh wetlands, are under threat right now. 



“This survey also shows that 60% of people agree that farming support payments should be conditional on taking measures to tackle the nature and climate crisis. Two-thirds of land in Northern Ireland is managed for agriculture, so it is essential farmers and landowners are empowered and properly incentivised to take action on this dual emergency.  


“We’ve launched our ‘Nature Positive NI’ Campaign to transform Northern Ireland’s dire record on biodiversity decline. Northern Ireland has been ranked as the 12th worst region in the world for biodiversity loss, we cannot allow this to continue."


This is not the first time the charity has asked the public about their wishes for nature’s protection in Northern Ireland. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the charity commissioned a poll which showed that 75% of the public in Northern Ireland had come to appreciate nature more as a result of lockdown restrictions. 



Now RSPB NI has gone one step further, asking the public the extent to which they want to see nature’s restoration and protection enshrined in law, and the results were clear, with 69% of people agreeing that they wanted an Independent Environment Protection Agency to be created to ensure business and individuals adhere to environmental laws. 


John continued:


“RSPB NI is demanding an ambitious Biodiversity Strategy in the new year, and for people to come together and take action for nature.  


“A vital aspect of this is that we need a functioning Executive to put legislation in place that will address Northern Ireland’s nature and climate emergency as well as ensure we all play our part in meeting global targets.” 

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