The Environment and Sustainability Committee reaches its views on the Environment (Wales) Bill

12 October 2015

Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image of a lake

Image from Flickr by Hefin Owen. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The Environment and Sustainability Committee has published its Stage 1 Report on the Environment (Wales) Bill. The report sets out the Committee’s views on the general principles of the Bill and its recommendations for change. The Committee recommends that the Assembly accepts the general principles of the Bill but makes 51 recommendations in its report. Some call for amendments to be made to the Bill whilst others call for greater clarity on the Welsh Government’s intentions.

A previous post outlines the main proposals of the Bill.

The Committee’s Recommendations and Views

The Bill has seven distinct parts covering Natural Resource Management, Climate Change, Waste, Shellfisheries, Marine Licensing and Flood and Coastal Erosion.

In its report the Committee asks for greater clarity about what sustainable natural resources means, how this term is defined and the strengthening of many of the Bill’s duties including those on biodiversity. In relation to the refusal of the Secretary of State for Wales to grant consent for some parts of section 6 of the Bill (the new biodiversity duty) the Committee states that whilst it is disappointing that this would mean not all of Wales is covered by the duty it believes the duty should remain in the Bill in relation to the rest of Wales.

It calls for the scrutiny and monitoring provisions in the climate change section to be improved by requiring the 2050 climate change target to be kept under review, for carbon budgets to be published sooner than proposed and for annual reporting by Welsh Ministers on progress to reduce Welsh emissions.

On waste it calls for greater certainty to be provided about the impacts of some provisions on business and for funds from any new carrier bag charges to be directed to environmental causes.

It seeks re-assurance for the fishing industry on how the shellfisheries provisions will be implemented and asks for a number of issues in relation to marine licensing to be included in any further consultation with the industry.

Some of the Committee’s key recommendations are set out in more detail below.

Part 1: Natural Resources Management

  • Recommendations 4 & 5: That the UN Convention on Biological Diversity definitions of ecosystems and biodiversity should be included in the Bill.
  • Recommendation 6: That the objective of this Bill should mirror the Resilient Wales goal of the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.
  • Recommendation 9: That the Bill should include specific consultation provisions on the production of State of Natural Resources Reports and Area Statements.
  • Recommendations 10: That several of the duties in Part 1 should be strengthened.
  • Recommendations 14-17: That the new biodiversity duty should be strengthened, that public bodies, the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) should be required to set out what action they have taken to protect the most important habitats and species in Wales and that the Welsh Government should publish more information on what biodiversity indicators will be developed under the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

Part 2: Climate Change

  • Recommendations 28 and 29: That the advisory body on climate change should be required to assess the adequacy of the 2050 target and Welsh Ministers should have powers to amend this target if needed.
  • Recommendation 33: That the Welsh Ministers should publish the first carbon budget sooner than the end of 2018.
  • Recommendation 36: That Welsh Ministers should be required to publish an annual report on progress to reduce emissions in Wales.

Parts 3&4: Carrier Bags and Waste

  • Recommendation 42: That the proceeds of any new carrier bag charges introduced e.g. charges for bags for life to be directed at environmental causes.
  • Recommendation 44: That the Welsh Government engages with the businesses that made representations to the Committee about the potential impact of a ban on food waste on their companies and revise the Regulatory Impact Assessment accordingly.
  • Recommendation 48: That the Welsh Government clarifies who will have responsibility for ensuring that banned waste substances aren’t sent to incinerators under any new regulations.

Parts 5& 6 Shellfisheries and Marine

  • Recommendation 49: That the Welsh Government should publish guidance setting out clearly how the new shellfisheries provisions will be interpreted and applied.
  • Recommendation 51: That the Welsh Government should include in any future consultation on marine licensing fees, the adoption of performance indicators by NRW, hourly rates for fees, transparent mechanisms for setting fees and arrangements to enable the publication of more marine data.

Next Steps

The Assembly will debate the general principles of the Bill and the Committee’s Stage 1 Report on 20 October. Stages 2 and 3 of the Bill will follow with the expectation that if passed the Bill will receive Royal Assent in March 2016.

 

View this post in Welsh.

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg.