MLAs at Stormont have endorsed a principle that the provisions within an Environment Bill currently going through Westminster will be extended to NI.
The Environment Bill establishes a new Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) in England to effectively replace the role previously carried out by the European Commission.
The new body will be independent of government, and will scrutinise environmental law and investigate breaches of these laws by public authorities.
A non-executive member of the OEP from NI is to be appointed this autumn
The current plan is that it will provide environmental oversight in England and NI, but not in Scotland or Wales.
In the intervening period until the Environment Bill is made into law this autumn, an interim OEP has been established, chaired by Dame Glenys Stacey, a solicitor by profession and with a wide experience of service in public bodies.
A non-executive member of the OEP from NI is to be appointed this autumn.
Speaking in the Stormont Assembly on Monday, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots explained that an amendment made in the House of Lords has removed the ability of DAERA to issue guidance to the OEP, and also means that MLAs will be unable to scrutinise OEP work.
“While I believe that the Lords took that decision with the best of intentions, I do not believe that it was the right decision.
“The UK Government have made it clear that they intend to reinstate the powers,” he told MLAs.
Members of the House of Lords have also come in for some criticism for not broadening a definition within the Environment Bill relating to deforestation.
Under the current definition, UK companies would be prevented from importing the likes of soya, palm oil and beef produced as a result of illegal deforestation in another country.
That weakness in the proposed legislation has been picked up by various UK supermarket chains
However, it will be up to the exporting country (such as Brazil) to decide if any deforestation or land clearance is illegal.
That weakness in the proposed legislation has been picked up by various UK supermarket chains and leading food companies, including Moy Park. They have collectively written to Defra Secretary of State George Eustice calling on him to ensure the Environment Bill “establishes an effective, workable, and cost-effective framework for halting all forms of deforestation.”