Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 33

Memorandum from The National Assembly For Wales

INTRODUCTION

  Uniquely amongst EU nations, the National Assembly for Wales has sustainable development (SD) built into its constitution, through section 121 of the Government of Wales Act.

  The Assembly is keenly interested in preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development ("the summit"). Though we have few functions in the fields of international development or foreign affairs, we nonetheless feel we have something to contribute to the success of the Summit, primarily through our efforts to put SD into practice.

  In regard to the Summit, we ensure that:

    —  people in Wales—young people especially—have an opportunity to contribute to discussions about the Summit;

    —  Wales' distinctive experience in SD is made accessible to any country or region that wishes to draw upon it;

    —  we can learn from good practice in other countries and regions; and

    —  Wales contributes to implementing the outcomes of the Summit.

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY'S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SCHEME

  Section 121 of the Government of Wales Act requires the Assembly to consult upon and then make a Scheme setting out how it will promote sustainable development in the exercise of its functions; to keep its Scheme under review, to consider at least every four years whether the Scheme needs to be revised or remade; and to report each year on its implementation and every four years on its effectiveness.

  In November 2000, after wide-ranging consultation, the Assembly adopted its Sustainable Development Scheme, "Learning to Live Differently" (available at http://www.wales.gov.uk//newsite.dbs? 37B1A026000BF4FD0000436C00000000+current+3A0BD19D0006E0AE000061C900000000+cur date+11 2000). This now provides the over-arching framework for all the Assembly's work, and runs through the Assembly's corporate plan, "Plan for Wales 2001."

  The Scheme sets out the definition of sustainable development which the Assembly is using, expanded into a vision of a sustainable Wales, and describes the interface between itself and the UK Government's Sustainable Development Strategy. It then spells out how the Assembly will translate its vision into action through:

    —  changing the way it takes decisions: this means reviewing all inherited policies and programmes, and ensuring all new policies and programmes reflect sustainable development objectives;

    —  linking key strategies together;

    —  specific policy actions;

    —  working with others in Europe, the UK and with its statutory partners and others within Wales;

    —  using indicators and targets for monitoring and reporting on progress.

An Action Plan to put this into effect was adopted by the Assembly in March 2001 (available at http://www.wales.gov.uk//newsite.dbs?37B1A026000BF4FD0000436C00000000 +current+3A93AE4A0000CF340000144700000000+cur date+02 2001).

  Under the terms of the Scheme and Action Plan, sustainable development is being "mainstreamed" into the way the Assembly operates, so that all key policies and programmes reinforce each other and promote sustainable development. This characterises the Assembly's approach to sustainable development. Sustainable development is of course taken into account in the annual budgeting process, but other structures and mechanisms have been and are being put in place too.

STRUCTURES AND MECHANISMS

  In Spring 2001, the Assembly's Cabinet established a Sub-Committee specifically concerned with SD, chaired by Rhodri Morgan, First Minister and Minister for Economic Development. Other members are: Sue Essex, Minister for Environment; Carwyn Jones, Rural Development Minister; and Jenny Randerson, Acting Deputy First Minister and Minister for Culture, Sport and the Welsh Language. Its terms of reference are to monitor, evaluate and secure delivery of the commitments in the Assembly's Sustainable Development Scheme and Action Plan. Papers and minutes, like those of the Assembly's Cabinet, are published on the internet (see http://www.wales.gov.uk/organicabinet/SubCmteeMeetings/index.htm).

  An internal cross-party liaison group on sustainable development is being established.

  An external expert panel on which the Assembly can call to help develop its sustainable development agenda is being convened under the leadership of a Welsh member of the UK's Sustainable Development Commission.

  The Welsh Assembly Government is very pleased to have entered into 3-year partnership with Forum for the Future, a leading UK sustainable development charity, who are helping with development of a top-level policy appraisal tool (which should be valuable for reviews as well as appraisal) and with integrating SD into a range of other policies. The appraisal tool is based upon the "Plan for Wales 2001," and is being designed as an aid to policy integration, including the mainstreaming of all the Assembly's cross-cutting themes.

STRATEGIC POLICIES

  New strategic policies have been and are being designed so that they will contribute towards achieving a sustainable Wales. Key strategies have been developed in parallel one with another, and are intended to be mutually supporting.

    —  A new strategy document for agriculture, "Farming for the Future—A new direction for farming in Wales," was launched in November 2001. It seeks to deliver a future for farming in Wales that is economically, socially and environmentally more sustainable and that involves coherent delivery of these complementary objectives.

    —  Transport is at the core of life in Wales for individuals, businesses and communities. "The Transport Framework for Wales" was launched in November 2001, to help deliver a better co-ordinated and sustainable transport system including improved public transport in Wales. It is intended to provide a basis on which all the major transport players in Wales can plan their actions in a structured and co-ordinated way.

    —  The National Assembly's information age strategic framework, "Cynru Arlein," was launched in November 2001 too. The aim is to use ICT to help create a more prosperous, culturally richer and less divided society. (Details on the full range of current and planned ICT activities in Wales can be found are at www.cymruarlein.wales.gov.uk).

    —  "A Winning Wales," launched in January 2002, sets out a national economic development strategy that explicitly strives to put development on a more sustainable basis in terms of eco-efficiency and equity, and to trade upon the opportunities that sustainable development could offer.

    —  The "Communities First" programme seeks to create sustainable and lasting solutions to the problems of people in some of Wales' most disadvantaged communities.

    —  Draft planning guidance for Wales was issued for consultation in February 2001, and new guidance is now being prepared for publication. In addition, a Wales Spatial Plan should be ready by the end of 2002.

INITIATIVES

  There has been considerable progress on other policies and strategies that will contribute specifically to major elements of SD, not least:

    —  Wales' Structural Fund programmes, particularly under Objective 1;

    —  A draft waste strategy;

    —  A woodland strategy;

    —  A programme of action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases;

    —  health impact assessment;

    —  the Tir Gofal scheme, which supports environmentally-friendly farming practice;

    —  the "Green Dragon" environmental standard, aimed at small and medium sized companies;

    —  the Environment Development Fund, which supports "sustainability test-bed" projects in Wales' three National Parks;

    —  a successful bid for European Commission support for a four million Euro programme, under the ERDF Regional Programme of Innovation Actions. (A related proposal for a pan-European inter-regional innovation and good practice network, in which Wales would be the designated lead region is being reworked).

GIVING A LEAD

  The Assembly has also been looking at its own operations, in order to lead by example. The Welsh Assembly Government:

    —  has launched a new sustainable approach to its procurement—"Winning our business" to help companies improve their sustainability credentials on the back of winning contracts from the Assembly; and

    —  has prepared new green house-keeping and green transport policies.

PARTNERSHIP

  The Scheme recognises that the Assembly can only achieve sustainable development by working with its partners. The Assembly Government:

    —  is negotiating a compact on SD with Welsh local government;

    —  is looking a assisting development of an internet-based voluntary sector SD network;

    —  held a major Business and Environment conference in October 2001;

    —  is fostering links with academic institutions throughout Wales, to strengthen development of evidence-based policy-making; and

    —  has established an Advisory Panel on Education for SD, to ensure that its educational work on SD is based on a shared understanding.

  The executive Assembly-sponsored public bodies (ASPBs), as key deliverers for Assembly policies, have a key role to play in delivering SD. They are required to put proposals to the Assembly for mainstreaming SD into their programmes.

REPORTING

  To underpin its statutory reporting obligations, the Assembly has adopted a small number of indicators of sustainable development. Work is on hand to identify further indicators. Most recent values of those already adopted are as follows.

IndicatorDescription Latest resultYear
EmploymentPercentage of working age people in work 68.1 per cent2001
EducationPercentage of people at age 19 with NVQ level 2 qualifications or equivalent 72 per cent2000
HousingPercentage of unfit dwellings 8.5 per cent1998
CrimeCrime rates per 100,000 population for:     
  (i)Theft of and from a vehicle 1,4862000-01
  (ii)Burglary in a dwelling 4142000-01
  (iii)Violent crime 1,3852000-01
Climate changeEmissions of greenhouse gases (million tonnes carbon equivalent):     
  Basket of greenhouse gases 12.41998
Air qualityDays when air pollution is moderate or higher:     
  Urban—CardiffSwanseaPort Talbot 213375200020002000
  Rural—Aston HillNarberth 272120002000
River water qualityThe percentage of river lengths of good or fair quality:     
  Chemical quality 98.62000
  Biological quality 98.32000
Wild lifePopulation of wild birds index Data not availableData not available
WasteHousehold waste in kg per person per year:     
  (i)Total household waste 4791999-2000
  (ii)Household waste recycled or composted 311999-2000
Welsh languageProportion of people who can speak Welsh:     
  (i)All aged 3 or over 18.5 per cent1991
  (ii)Children aged 3-14 24 per cent1991
Energy from renewable resourcesPercentage of energy produced in Wales generated from renewable sources 3.2 per cent2000
Ecological footprintsWales' global ecological footprint in hectares per person 5.25 hectares per personvarious


  A statistical bulletin giving further details of these indicators, and a full report on Wales' Ecological Footprint, will be published soon.

  (An ecological footprint is a measure of the productive land (and sea) area needed to support the way we live. Obviously, land is needed to grow food, but other environmental impacts—water and energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal, etc—can also be "translated" into land areas. A Footprint can be calculated for an individual, a family, a firm, a town, an industry, a region, a country or any group of countries. The Footprint of Wales has been estimated at 5.25 hectares per person. This is significantly below the UK and European average, and well below North American figures. Unfortunately, it is far above the average "fair earth share" of about 1.92 hectares per person. If the whole world lived as Wales does, we would need approximately 2¾ earths to support ourselves without exceeding natural carrying capacity. This illustrates the need to reduce environmental impacts at the same time as growing the economy. We believe that the National Assembly is the first government in the world to adopt the Ecological Footprint as one of its official indicators of sustainable development).

  A detailed account of progress on items listed in the Assembly's Sustainable Development Action Plan will be included in the Welsh Assembly Government's own annual report for 2001-02.

PREPARATIONS FOR THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

  The centrepiece of the Welsh Assembly Government's preparations for the Summit will be a major conference in April. The aim of the event is to attract a wide audience of NGOs, local government, business and academic participants to help inform our approach to the summit. Reflecting our commitment to work in partnership to promote sustainable development, we are staging the Cardiff event in conjunction with Oxfam Cymru and WWF Cymru.

  We are planning plenary sessions on issues of international development and climate change, and the First Minister is also scheduled to speak, but the remainder of the conference will be designed primarily around a series of workshops on themes we expect to be important at the World Summit. Our aim is to bring a Welsh and an international perspective to each theme, and so identity both what Wales has to learn from others and also what distinctive experience Wales can take to the Summit. The transactions of the conference will form part or our "portfolio" for the Summit.

  Our "portfolio" will also include our SD Scheme and Action Plan, our 2001-02 statutory Annual Report, the proceedings of the major Business and Environment conference we staged last October, and the transactions of 2 further conferences aimed specifically at young people in Wales. These are being organised for us by Techniquest and by the Centre for Alternative Technology.

  The Assembly is supporting WWF's "Our World" competition.

  In addition, we are in discussion with local authorities in Wales about activities timed to coincide with the Summit, and about follow-up action to contribute towards implementing the Summit's conclusions.

  Sue Essex AM, as Assembly Environment Minister, is invited to attend MISC18. An official from the Assembly's Sustainable Development Unit attends the official-level steering group that prepares for these meetings and previously attended the inter-departmental group that preceded it.

  Assembly members in plenary have decided that the First Minister should represent Wales at the Summit. Recognising that the composition of the UK delegation is for the Prime Minister to decide, we have requested that the First Minister be included in the UK delegation to the Summit.

  The attached Annex addresses the Environmental Audit Committee's specific questions.



 
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