Environment (Wales) Bill: Changes agreed at Stage 2

15 December 2015

Article by Nia Seaton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Pen Y Fan Brecon Beacons in the snow

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Stage 2 proceedings of the Environment (Wales) Bill took place in the Environment and Sustainability Committee on 26 November 2015. Stage 2 is the first chance for Assembly Members to make amendments to the Bill.

During the Stage 2 meeting on the Environment Bill a number of amendments were agreed. In addition the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant, indicated a number of areas where the Welsh Government will be seeking to bring forward further amendments at Stage 3.

Key changes made at Stage 2

Although there are 8 Parts to the Bill the majority of amendments were made to Parts 1 and 2 that deals with the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Climate Change. Amendments agreed at Stage 2 included:

Part 1: Natural Resources

  • Strengthening the language in relation to a number of the duties in Part 1 in line with recommendations 10 and 11 of the Environment and Sustainability Committee’s Stage 1 Report;
  • Placing further details about the minimum contents of Area Statements on the face of the Bill;
  • Changing the principles of sustainable management of natural resources to include reference to the need for public participation in environmental decision-making and the need to take action to prevent serious or irreversible damage to ecosystems; and
  • An amendment requiring the Welsh Ministers when publishing a National Natural Resources Policy to set out the priorities, risks and opportunities for biodiversity.

Part 2: Climate Change

  • Providing Welsh Ministers with the powers to increase the level of the 2050 carbon emissions target;
  • Placing interim targets on the face of the Bill. The interim years will be 2030 and 2040 and the emissions targets for these years must be set by the end of 2018;
  • An amendment requiring the advisory body for climate change to review the suitability of the 2040 and 2050 targets in 2030;
  • Requiring Welsh Ministers to lay a statement before the Assembly setting out how they will address a failure to achieve a carbon budget within 3 months of notifying the Assembly that a carbon budget has been exceeded. The Bill previously said this had to be ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.

Likely further amendments at Stage 3

The Minister for Natural Resources in opposing a number of the amendments put forward by opposition parties at Stage 2, outlined his willingness to consider Assembly Members’ concerns and bring forward additional amendments at Stage 3. Areas where the Minister indicated his willingness to make further changes included:

  • Placing a definition of biodiversity on the face of the Bill;
  • Ensuring that Area Statements cover the whole of Wales and are properly aligned with the marine planning process;
  • A new duty to publish a renewable energy plan for Wales;
  • Providing assurances on the independence of NRW and the State of Natural Resources Reports; and
  • Requiring Welsh Ministers to publish any consultation responses received during the development of a National Natural Resources Policy.

Amendments not agreed

Some amendments proposed at Stage 2 were not agreed and the Minister gave no indication of his support for the introduction of similar amendments at Stage 3. These included:

  • Placing a definition of ecosystems on the face of the Bill;
  • Including references to landscapes in Part 1 of the Bill;
  • Reporting annually on progress against carbon emissions targets and carbon budgets;
  • Setting the level of the first carbon budget by the end of 2017 and the second and third budgets by the end of 2018; and
  • Including a biodiversity index and targets on the face of the Bill.

Stage 3 of the Bill will take place in January 2016 when the Assembly as a whole will have an opportunity to amend the Bill during a Plenary debate.

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