Welsh Government Consulting on Environmental Watchdog, Environmental Principles and Nature Recovery Framework

Following on from the UK leaving the EU and the establishment of other environmental watchdogs – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) for England and Northern Ireland, and Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) – the Welsh Government has published a White Paper entitled Securing a Sustainable Future: Environmental Principles, Governance and Biodiversity Targets for a Greener Wales that sets out its proposals for an environmental governance body for Wales, along with embedding environmental principles in Welsh law and to introduce targets and statutory duties for the protection and restoration of biodiversity in Wales.

Environmental Principles

The White Paper proposes that, in following EU legislation,  the following principles be embedded in Welsh law and will apply only to ministers (with the thinking that this will flow through to public bodies):

  1. Integration
  2. Precautionary
  3. Prevention
  4. Rectification at source; and
  5. Polluter pays.

Environmental Watchdog

The White Paper states that primary purpose of the governance body will be to provide oversight of the implementation of, and compliance with, environmental law in Wales by Welsh public authorities.

The consultation proposes that the governance body should:

  1. Monitor and advise Welsh Ministers on the development of environmental law and policy in Wales.
  2. Receive complaints/representations from the public as to alleged failures to comply with environmental law by Welsh public authorities.
  3. Monitor Welsh Ministers and Welsh public authorities’ implementation of, and compliance with, environmental law. This includes investigating alleged failures to comply and, where necessary, taking enforcement action.
  4. Provide independent scrutiny and oversight of the delivery of any statutory environmental targets set by Welsh Ministers (such as the new biodiversity target framework proposed by the Bill).
  5. Provide expert advice, as it deems necessary, to Welsh Ministers and Welsh public authorities in relation to environmental law.
  6. Embrace a forward looking and preventative approach, promoting early detection, assessment and pro-active intervention against emerging risks relating to the environment in the context of the functioning and effective implementation of environmental law.
  7. Exercise its functions independently from Welsh Government and with impartiality.
  8. Work constructively to complement and be compatible with existing public bodies established to monitor, scrutinise, advise or hold Welsh public authorities to account, including the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
  9. Where appropriate, work collaboratively on areas of shared interest in respect of the functioning and effective implementation of environmental law, with the OEP and ESS.
  10. Draw on practice within the European Union, while recognising the distinct legislative framework applying in Wales.

Nature Recovery Framework

The consultation paper sets out proposals for a Wales nature recovery framework that will include:

  1. Statutory biodiversity targets comprising a headline nature positive target in the Bill and a suite of supporting biodiversity targets to be set by the Welsh Ministers in secondary legislation.
  2. Effective monitoring, reporting and scrutiny requirements for both the headline and supporting targets that will complement and enhance mechanisms.
  3. A Nature Recovery Strategy which will set out the Welsh Government’s long-term vision for a nature positive Wales where biodiversity is protected and restored setting the strategic pathway for delivery of the statutory biodiversity targets. This will address both Wales’ response to the Global Biodiversity Framework, and the longer-term change needed to respond to the nature emergency.
  4. A Nature Recovery Action Plan which will detail the action needed to achieve the statutory biodiversity targets and in doing so achieve our long-term vision of a nature positive Wales.
  5. Local Nature Recovery Plans to be produced by Welsh public authorities. Which Welsh Government proposes should outline local action and priorities reflecting the Wales Nature Recovery Strategy and their contribution to help achieve the statutory biodiversity targets.

Contribute to a CIEEM Response

The consultation runs until 30 April. If you are interested in contributing to a CIEEM response please contact the policy team.