The Environment (Wales) Act puts in place the legislation needed to plan and manage Wales’ natural resources in a more proactive, sustainable and joined-up way.
The Act received Royal Assent in 2016. It delivers against Welsh Government’s Programme for Government commitment to introduce new legislation for the environment. This positions Wales as a low carbon, green economy, ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The key parts of the act are:
- Part 1: Sustainable management of natural resources – enables Wales’ resources to be managed in a more proactive, sustainable and joined-up way.It also helps to tackle the challenges we face and is focused on the opportunities our resources provide.
- Part 2: Climate change – provides Welsh Ministers with powers to put in place statutory emission reduction targets, including at least an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 and carbon budgeting to support their delivery.This is vital within the context of our existing UK and EU obligations and sets a clear pathway for decarbonisation. It also provides certainty and clarity for business and investment.
- Part 3: Charges for carrier bags – extends Welsh Ministers’ powers so that they may set a charge for other types of carrier bags such as bags for life.It also places a duty on retailers to donate the net proceeds from the sale of carrier bags to good causes.
- Part 4: Collection and disposal of waste – improves waste management processes by helping us achieve higher levels of business waste recycling, better food waste treatment and increased energy recovery.This will help to decrease pressure on natural resources while also contributing towards positive results for both the economy and the environment.
- Parts 5 & 6: Fisheries for shellfish and marine licensing – clarifies the law in relation to shellfisheries management and marine licensing.
- Part 7: Flood & Coastal Erosion Committee and land drainage – clarifies the law for other environmental regulatory regimes including flood risk management and land drainage.
The Biodiversity and Resilience of Ecosystems Duty – Section 6
Section 6 under Part 1 of the Environment (Wales) Act introduced an enhanced duty (the S6 duty) for public authorities in the exercise of functions in relation to Wales.
The S6 duty requires that public authorities must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity so far as consistent with the proper exercise of their functions and in so doing promote the resilience of ecosystems.
To follow the S6 duty public authorities should embed the consideration of biodiversity and ecosystems into their early thinking and business planning, including any policies, plans, programmes and projects, as well as their day to day activities.
State of Natural Resources Report
The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) assesses the state of Wales’ natural resources, and provides an assessment of the extent to which Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) is being achieved.
- Provides a national evidence base for Wales on how we are managing our natural resources and ecosystems and the significant contribution that our natural resources make towards our well-being
- Highlights the key challenges our natural resources face
- Supports NRWs’ reporting towards its duty to pursue SMNR
- Provides evidence to support public service delivery including for local well-being assessments, objectives and plans,
- Provides evidence to support Public Authorities in meeting their Biodiversity and ecosystem resilience duty ahead of Area Statements
NRW will produce a new report every five years to set out the current best knowledge on the sustainable management of natural resources in Wales.
Welsh Ministers must consider the evidence contained with the State of Natural Resources Report when preparing the Natural Resources Policy.
The Natural Resources Policy
The Natural Resources Policy (NRP) is the second statutory product of the Environment (Wales) Act.
The focus of the NRP is the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources, to maximise their contribution to achieving goals within the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
The policy sets out three National Priorities:
- Delivering nature-based solutions
- Increasing renewable energy and resource efficiency
- Taking a place-based approach
The NRP covers and integrates a broad range of traditional policy areas (including water, food and drink, farming and agriculture, forestry, waste, energy, countryside access and environment) and intends to maximise contribution across the Seven Well-being Goals from the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act.
Area Statements will help to facilitate the delivery of the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy at the local level.
The Environment (Wales) Act requires the Statements to include information about the natural resources in that place, the benefits they provide, and the priorities, risks and opportunities that need to be addressed, to achieve sustainable management of them.
Area Statements are an evidence base to help deliver sustainable management of natural resources at a local level right across Wales.
They will bring together data, information, organisations, and ways of engaging others to help better understand the state and trends of natural resources in an area, the pressures on them and the benefits we receive.
In doing so, they should also stimulate action and collaboration around management of natural resources.
Area Statements are a fundamental building block for other planning processes in Wales – in particular (but not exclusively) Well-being Plans, Local Development Plans, National Park and AONB Management Plans, Water Company Plans and NRW’s own statutory and operational planning processes.
Because they need to feed into these processes in a relevant and timely way – we need to ensure the process for their development is done collaboratively, using the collective knowledge from a broad range of stakeholders.
Interim emissions reduction targets and first two carbon budgets
Welsh Government has set the following interim emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets:
- 2020: 27% reduction
- 2030: 45% reduction
- 2040: 67% reduction
- Carbon budget 1 (2016-20): Average of 23% reduction
- Carbon budget 2 (2021-25): Average of 33% reduction