The Assembly voted on 2 February 2016 to pass the Environment (Wales) Bill into law. Although the Bill won’t receive Royal Assent, and become an Act, until March 2016 the vote in Plenary marks the final stage of the Bill’s passage through the Assembly. The Bill began its journey through the Assembly in May 2015 and since then has been subject to detailed scrutiny by Assembly Members and stakeholders in Wales. A number of changes have been made to the Bill since its introduction. The final set of amendments was agreed during stage 3 of the Bill which took place on 26 January 2016. Stage 3 of the Bill marks the first opportunity for the Assembly as whole to amend and consider the Bill. Previous stages, as outlined in our other blog posts on the Bill, took place in the Environment and Sustainability Committee. Following on from our blog post on the key changes made at stage 2 of the Bill this post considers the additional amendments made during stage 3. Key changes made at Stage 3
- Section 4 of the Bill sets out the principles of sustainable natural resources management that the Welsh Government and other public bodies will need to take into account. Members agreed to include a requirement to prevent significant damage to ecosystems within the Bill and a requirement to consider the structure and functioning of ecosystems as well as their condition.
- Section 6 of the Bill places a duty on public authorities to maintain and enhance biodiversity in Wales. Members voted in favour of strengthening the reporting requirements of this duty. Public authorities will have to take account of any guidance issued by Welsh Ministers. In carrying out their duty they will also have to pay attention to other reports and requirements included in the Bill. For example in carrying out their biodiversity duty authorities will need to take account of the list of species and organisms of principal importance in Wales created under section 7 of the Bill.
- Section 8 of the Bill requires Natural Resources Wales to produce a report on the State of Natural Resources in Wales. Members voted in favour of including more detail on the face of the Bill about what this report should contain.
- A definition for the term biodiversity was included in the Bill.
- In relation to Climate Change Members agreed that the year 2020 should be included as an additional interim target on carbon emissions.
- Members also voted in favour of an amendment which will require Welsh Ministers when changing the 2050 emissions targets, interim emissions targets or setting a carbon budget, to take account of international agreements on measures to limits increases in global average temperatures.
- Section 57 of the Bill gives Welsh Ministers the powers to requires sellers to give the proceeds of any Welsh carrier bag charge to a charitable purpose. Members agreed that the proceeds from any new carrier bags charge should in the first instance go to charities in Wales protecting or improving the environment. However they also agreed that if shops already have a relationship with a different type of charity, such as a health charity, they can ask to keep giving proceeds at this charity rather than a new environmental cause.
Changes not agreed Some of the changes Members wanted to make to the Bill at Stage 3 weren’t agreed to by a majority of Assembly Members and so will not be included in the Act. Changes put forward but not agreed to included:
- Placing a definition of ecosystems on the face of the Bill;
- Including a reference to the characteristics of landscapes in the principles of sustainable natural resources management in Section 4 of the Bill;
- Additional requirements to publish consultation responses and information used in the preparation of a National Natural Resources Policy;
- Including a requirement for Welsh Ministers to report annually on progress to deliver against carbon emission targets and carbon budgets;
- Setting the 2020 interim emissions target at 40 per cent lower than the baseline on the face of the Bill;
- A requirement to consider the impact of Welsh Ministers budget proposals on carbon emissions; and
- An amendment to the definition of food waste contained in section 66 of the Bill.