The Environment (Wales) Bill – laid today

11 May 2015

Article by Katy Orford and Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image of Common Blue Butterfly

Image from Flickr by Matt Clark. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The Environment (Wales) Bill (PDF, 293KB) and associated Explanatory Memorandum have been laid today and will be introduced in Plenary by the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant, on Tuesday.

The Bill’s content is wide ranging covering at least eight different areas including natural resources management, climate change targets, waste management and charges on carrier bags, management of shellfish fisheries, marine licensing, land drainage and the establishment of a Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee. The Welsh Government states its aim for the Bill is to ‘put in place legislation that will enable Wales’ resources to be managed in a more proactive, sustainable and joined-up manner and to establish the legislative framework necessary to tackle climate change’.

The Bill is the third in a series of significant pieces of new Welsh legislation which will impact upon management of the environment in Wales. The other pieces of legislation being the Well-Being of Future Generations Act 2015 and the Planning (Wales) Bill. 

This is an image of Environment (Wales) Bill TimelineThe main provisions of the Environment (Wales) Bill are:

  1. To promote sustainable management of natural resources

The Bill will require Welsh Ministers to adopt a National Natural Resources Policy and will require Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to introduce area statements setting out the challenges and opportunities for sustainable natural resource management at an area level. It will also require NRW to publish a State of Natural Resources Report which will set out evidence on Wales’ progress towards its environment and natural resource management goals.

It will amend the statutory purpose of NRW and provides it with enhanced powers to carry out land management agreements and experimental schemes.

It will also strengthen existing duties on public authorities to have regard to biodiversity.

  1. To provide for targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases

The Bill will introduce statutory emission reduction targets and carbon budgeting in an aim to tackle climate change in Wales.

  1. To reform the law on charges for carrier bags

The new legislation proposes to give Welsh Ministers wider powers to raise charges on all carrier bags, not only single use bags, and would allow Welsh Ministers to impose a duty on sellers to pass on any net proceeds of the charge to good causes. At present Welsh Ministers can only require that net proceeds are directed at environmental causes.

  1. To provide for the separate collection of waste, prohibit disposal of food waste to sewers and provide for prohibiting or regulating disposal of waste by incineration

Welsh Ministers would be given wider powers to require different types of waste to be collected separately. The Bill would ban the disposal of food waste to the sewer from non-domestic properties and would allow Welsh Ministers to prohibit the incineration of some recyclable waste.

  1. To make provision about several and regulated fisheries for shellfish

The Bill will amend Part 1 of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 to give Welsh Ministers new powers to ensure that Several and Regulating Orders for shellfish take account of the need to protect the marine environment.

  1. To make provision about fees for marine licences

Welsh Ministers or a body acting on their behalf, such as NRW, would be able to introduce new charges for some services connected to the issuing of marine licences. These would include charges for pre-application advice given to developers seeking to undertake marine activities.

  1. To establish the Flood and Coastal Erosion Committee

The Welsh Government states that the purpose of this proposal is to remove and change some of the statutory functions of the current committee, Flood Risk Management Wales (FRMW), to establish a committee with a wider advisory/consultative role.

  1. To make minor changes to the law about land drainage and byelaws made by the Natural Resources Body for Wales

The Bill aims to amend all relevant sections in the Land Drainage Act 1991 to allow for a wider, more targeted distribution of notices and procedures by NRW on internal drainage issues. It also provides for an appeal mechanism for local authorities to challenge special levies issued by NRW in relation to their internal drainage functions and extends Welsh Ministers powers to enter land to ensure that a land owner has complied with an Order to improve drainage issues on their land.

2013 White Paper

A White Paper published on 23 October 2013 asked for views on a number of the proposals and this forms the basis of the new Bill. However, a number of significant changes have also been made including the addition of statutory climate change targets and the strengthening of the biodiversity duty placed on public authorities in Wales. The Welsh Government has said that the inclusion of the climate change targets reflect the views expressed in the Wales We Want final report in March 2015 which found that ‘climate change was considered the single most critical issue facing future generations’ by the people of Wales.

The Bill will now be considered by the Environment and Sustainability Committee of the Assembly who are due to launch a consultation on the Bill on 15 May.

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