John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development
In the light of the recent publication of the National Ecosystems Assessment and the English Natural Environment White Paper, I want to update the Assembly on the work of the Welsh Government on the natural environment and to set out our approach.
The first Welsh comprehensive Environment Strategy was published in 2006, setting out the approach to delivering a more sustainable use of the land, air and water of Wales. Progress on delivery of the Strategy’s actions has been reported annually.
In the light of emerging evidence on ecosystem health, in September 2010 the Natural Environment Framework, ‘A Living Wales’ was launched, to update our approach and ensure we were addressing the environment as a whole and looking at all the benefits better management of our environment can bring.
Following the initial consultation, plans to adopt a new ecosystem approach were published in February this year.
The main changes that this ecosystem approach will bring are:
- A focus on the value of the environment as a whole, delivering positive environmental, social and economic outcomes
- Opportunities for wider public involvement
- A positive approach for landowners, farmers, fisheries, forestry, developers and regulated industries to reflect the common goal of sustainable development, delivering positive environmental change, not just conserving what we have
- Changes in the way we deliver policy, make decisions and regulate the environment, to ensure our communities and neighbourhoods have the highest possible standards of health and wellbeing
- Ensuring the public bodies, charged with protecting and enhancing the environment are equipped to deliver the new approach.
Our guiding aim is to ensure that Wales has increasingly resilient and diverse ecosystems that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.
Up-to-date information on progress can be found on the `A Living Wales` website. This includes discussion papers on the services provided by the natural environment to society and on Natural Capital Accounting – which extends the traditional economic concept of capital to environmental goods and services.
National Ecosystems Assessment
The National Ecosystems Assessment, which was published 2 June, was co-sponsored by the Welsh Government. A comprehensive Welsh report was co-ordinated by the Environment Hub at Bangor University.
This academic work has been used to inform our approach in the Natural Environment Framework but does not represent our policy. We have, for example, adopted different categories of ecosystem services in our own work, and we will be considering our own priorities for future uses of land, building on work such as the Wales Land Use and Climate Change report, rather than taking forward any of the illustrative scenarios included in the main report.
I was disappointed that the media chose to run stories about converting uplands in Wales to forestry, especially when the leader of the Assessment himself said such a change would be counter-productive for our climate change goals.
Natural Environment White Paper
The Natural Environment White Paper sets out policies for England. With the exception of certain international activities and some other non-devolved aspects such as National Accounting, it does not represent policy in Wales. Our policy and approach is set out in `A Living Wales`.
We do, however, welcome the proposed focus on accounting for the value of the environment in UK National Accounts. We agree that making sure the services that the environment provides for us are fully reflected in decisions is vital for future sustainability.
My priority for the development of `A Living Wales` is now to implement the new approach in our communities across Wales.
The Department and our agencies will be developing a series of pilot projects after the summer to test the new approach locally. This will look at different environments from the urban to the deep rural and the coastal and how these might be used more sustainably over time. I also want us to look particularly at some of our most pressured urban environments to ensure that we deliver a better quality of life for people who live there, looking at all aspects of the local environment.
We will continue to work closely with all those with a stake in our environment and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed so positively to developing the Framework to date.