The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.
So is it all just about the environment?
Living within our environmental limits is one of the central principles of sustainable development. One implication of not doing so is climate change.
But the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It’s also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity.
Protected areas are often perceived as benefiting only nature and biodiversity. Their effects on regional development are frequently neglected.
In order for the UK to become more sustainable, it is important to have an agreed set of principles that can be used as a basis for co-ordinated national policies, strategies and action plans.
The UK Government published its ‘Five Principles of Sustainable Development’ in its Shared Framework for Sustainable Development, released in March 2005.
The principles, which were developed with support from the SDC, have been agreed by the UK Government (inc NI), the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive, and are reflected in the UK sustainable development strategy, ‘Securing the Future’, also released in March 2005.
Securing the Future
- Source: Sustainable Development Commission website
There are a number of legislative policies that strive to address sustainable development and climate change issues globally. These must be considered when working towards the sustainable development of protected areas.
Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan 2010
The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) have developed the Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland 2010. This has been accompanied by an Implementation Plan for Northern Ireland that allows various organisations across Northern Ireland to play their part on sustainable development. The vision for the Strategy is that ‘everyone’s involved’ and that we must work towards a collective vision.
UK Climate Change Act 2008 and Northern Ireland
The Department of Environment (DOE) has a Climate Change Unit and the NICCIP (Northern Ireland Climate Change Impacts Partnership) was established to widen understanding of climate change issues in Northern Ireland, together with adaptation measures necessary to deal with it. The UK Climate Change Act (2008) has been passed which forms the structure through which Northern Ireland will deal with climate change adaptation measures. Officials within the Northern Ireland Climate Change Unit under the DOE worked with, and continue to work with their counterparts in Whitehall on the climate change legislation. This team was consulted throughout the development of the legislation and their input contributed extensively to the formation of the UK Climate Change Bill. To ensure Northern Ireland availed of the powers within the Bill, a legislative consent motion agreeing to the extension of the provisions of the UK Climate Change Bill to Northern Ireland was passed in December 2007, by the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is clear therefore that Northern Ireland has a role to play in adapting to climate change.
Copenhagen Accord 2009
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) held its 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in December 2009 in Copenhagen to finalise a deal on climate change targets globally. Despite no legally binding contract being agreed in Copenhagen, key outcomes which have been developed as the Copenhagen Accord include:
- Recognising the scientific view that an increase in global temperatures should be kept below 2 °C
- Commitment by Annex 1 countries (developed nations) to country-wide emissions targets by 2020
- Commitment by Non-Annex 1 countries (developing nations) to implement mitigation actions to slow growth in emissions
- Commitment by Annex 1 countries in collectively raising $1 billion per year by 2020 to help developing nations adapt to the effects of climate change.
These policy documents and targets are important reports that will aim to secure the sustainable development of our environment.