Wales politics

AMs pass Welsh law to tackle climate change

Snowdonia Image copyright Geograph/Peter Trimming

"World-leading legislation" to tackle climate change and better manage Wales' natural resources has been passed.

The Environment (Wales) Bill sets a target for emissions to be reduced by at least 80% by 2050.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) - responsible for landscapes and wildlife - will be asked to put sustainability at the heart of its decision-making.

AMs passed the bill unanimously, but opposition parties said it could have been more ambitious.

Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: "This is a great day for Wales 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."

Other highlights of the bill, which had been three years in the making, include:

  • Forcing schools, hospitals and businesses to separate their waste for recycling by 2017.
  • Extending the 5p charges on supermarket carrier bags to "bags-for-life" - not including hessian bags - which will see proceeds go to charities after retailers' costs are taken into account.
  • NRW will be tasked with reporting on how well we are looking after nature, land, water and air - with a five-yearly report which will inform policy.
  • Five-yearly targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions - and by at least 80% by 2050.
  • A ban on food waste ending up in sewers - to stop the likes of "fatbergs" developing like the one found in Cardiff last year.
  • NRW will also have to produce area reports on the "bigger picture" of local environments - and work with other public bodies like councils more closely.
  • A video summarising the Environment Bill
Image copyright PA

While the bill was passed unanimously, opposition parties spoke of missed opportunities.

The Welsh Tories' Shadow Environment Minister Janet Haworth said Labour "missed an ideal opportunity to increase Natural Resources Wales' independence from Government, to embrace the United Nations' definitions of biodiversity and ecosystems, and have failed to offer Dwr Cymru necessary recognition as a statutory consultee in planning matters".

Plaid Cymru spokesman Llyr Gruffydd said legislation to cut carbon emissions "don't necessarily go far enough" but were "a step in the right direction".

He added that Welsh Labour had missed an opportunity to give Natural Resources Wales "an unequivocal remit for being the environment champion for Wales".

William Powell, for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said Welsh Labour ministers remained "unambitious" on tackling climate change.

"This bill will simply put Wales in line with the rest of the UK, I think we should aim for higher than that," he said.

"With the right ambition, we could lead the way in renewable technologies and in creating a circular economy."

Haf Elgar, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru, a coalition of environmental groups, said the legal framework to cut carbon emissions was "a big step ahead".

"However we are disappointed that the target for 2050 isn't higher," she added.

Annie Smith, from the Wales Environment Link, said there was a lot of support for the bill among environmental and countryside groups.

"It gives us a great platform to start from - now real things need to happen to get us into a better place as a result," she said.

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