Wales pass bill to make the environment central to all future legislation

8 February 2016

LONDON: Wales’ National Assembly has just passed a bill to put the environment at the center of all future laws of the nation.

When converted in law, the bill will commit Wales to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by “at least” 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline, while giving it more powers to manage its own ecosystem.

“This is a great day for Wales,” said Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant, “as the passing of the Environment Bill will ensure that the sustainable management of our natural resources will be a core consideration in all future decision-making.

“I’m proud that this is the first Bill in the UK - and as far as we are aware in the EU - to put in place the ecosystem approach adopted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity into domestic legislation. This recognizes the vital role natural resources and their services provide to Wales’ economy, communities and environment.”

AMBITIOUS TARGETS

Wales, a valuable member of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, had already set a target of reducing all emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020. With this new law, it will also set interim targets every 10 years to achieve the bold target of 80% reductions by 2050 - with a power to increase this target to keep pace with the science and international commitment.

The law will also expand Wales’ powers in the recycling sector, where the country leads the whole UK. Building up to the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations Act passed last year, the new law will require Natural Resources Wales to publish regular analysis on the country’s natural resources and ability to respond to climate change.

Video: Environment (Wales) Bill, courtesy of the Welsh Government

“The Welsh Government is taking a progressive approach with this new piece of legislation,” said Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group. “Wales were among 123 global governments who committed to ambitious long-term emissions reductions at the global climate summit, COP21, in December last year.

“Only a few weeks after this commitment, The Environment Bill is a clear example of how quickly the government are turning targets into concrete action.

“The Climate Group is delighted that Wales is an active member of the global States & Regions Alliance, where this innovative approach to tackling climate change can be shared with a network of governments around the world.”

CLIMATE OPPORTUNITIES

The law will help to drive Wales’ transition to a low carbon economy “by creating new opportunities for green growth while tackling directly the major environmental challenges we face,” underlines Carl Sargeant. For this reason, the government will produce a national policy to better manage the country’s environment, valued at approximately £8 billion (US$12.5 billion).

The country is already pushing to became a leader in the low carbon economy, with its electricity generation from renewables increasing from 3.5% in 2005, to 10.1% in 2013. This year, the Welsh Government estimates such a number can reach over 15% - representing almost 30% of its total electricity consumption.

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