New plans for a sustainable Wales
Welsh Environment Minister John Griffiths has launched new plans to ensure public services deliver long term and sustainable benefits for the people of Wales, meeting a commitment to legislate to make sustainable development the central organising principle of the Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales. The minister explained what this means:
“I have often said that Sustainability lies at the very heart of the Welsh Government. What this means in reality is that when our Government is faced with difficult choices we will go for the option that delivers the best long term results for the people of Wales.”
Consultation on proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill
The Welsh Government is seeking views on proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill which would place a legal requirement on organisations delivering public services in Wales to ensure their decision making is informed by sustainable development principles. The proposals would also require organisations to report annually on how they have complied with that duty.
The consultation is seeking views on:
- The Welsh Government’s approach to a sustainable development duty that applies to organisations delivering public services;
- The Welsh Government’s approach to the role and functions of a new independent sustainable development body;
- The barriers to taking more long-term, joined-up decisions, and how to remove them;
- Evidence on promoting sustainable development;
- Reviewing existing legal duties and simplifying them in the proposed Sustainable Development Bill;
- The advantages and disadvantages of defining “sustainable development” in law.
Comments can be submitted by 18 July 2012, through an online form, by email or post.
Sustainability in practice
The Minister further explained what it means to put sustainability at the heart of the Welsh Government:
“This means things like investing in high quality, early education now to prevent social hardship later on; or helping Welsh householders and businesses to become more energy efficient so they can save money whilst also preparing for future energy price rises.
“We believe that by adopting this approach we will improve economic, social and environmental well being and enhance quality of life in Wales. This in turn will mean healthy, productive people, vibrant, inclusive communities, a diverse environment that supports wildlife and an advanced, innovative and resilient economy.
“Of course we know we cannot achieve all this on our own. These proposals are about ensuring that all organisations delivering public services in Wales are legally committed to making decisions based on clear sustainability principles. We believe this approach will deliver long-term benefits.
“However we are also mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and costs and this consultation considers whether there are obligations that could be removed in light of the proposed sustainability duty.”
Peter Davies, Commissioner for Sustainable Futures said:
“The Sustainable Development Bill will represent a key stage in the devolution process, establishing a framework for development which is clear, connected, consistent, provides certainty and is focused on the long-term.
“The focus is on using the legislative powers to set the framework for improvement and investment, but ultimately, it is also about the opportunity of change and challenging mindsets. We should therefore make sure there is focus on change.”
One of the consultation proposals is the establishment of an independent Welsh body to provide advice and guidance on sustainable development. The new body could also challenge public service deliverers on how they are meeting their duty.
The consultation builds on the good progress that many public service organisations in Wales have already made in seeking to operate more sustainably.
This includes Swansea Council’s work to improve how they measure their performance by linking it more directly with real benefits for local communities and with an increased focus carbon on emission reduction.
The health board Hywel Dda is also working creatively to increase its resilience and performance. This includes strengthening partnership working between third sector, hospitals and GPs to improve delivery; encouraging volunteering and developing a code of practice; and supporting the development of social enterprises for heath and social care. All of these moves are aimed at in increasing capacity within the community, driving up resilience and focussing healthcare on prevention and early intervention rather than waiting until people urgently need services.
The Welsh Government is continuing its own work to operate and legislate sustainably and is also launching an Active Travel Bill. The key aim of the Bill is to see local authorities enabling and encouraging more people to walk and cycle in Wales by connecting key sites such as hospitals, schools and shopping areas with traffic free routes and cycle lanes.
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