The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 sets out the requirement for the ‘sustainable management of natural resources’ together with new ways of working to achieve this. Part 1 of the Environment Act sets out Wales' approach to planning and managing natural resources at a national and local level with a general purpose linked to statutory 'principles of sustainable management of natural resources' defined within the Act.There are 3 main constituents to Part 1 of the Environment Act:
1. The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR)- A report produced by Natural Resources Wales that gives an assessment of natural resources and how well Wales is doing to manage them in a sustainable way
2. Natural Resources Policy - A policy produced by Welsh Government that sets out the priorities, risks and opportunities for managing natural resources sustainably. The policy takes into account the findings of the State of Natural Resources report
3. Area Statements –A local evidence base produced by Natural Resources Wales which helps to implement the priorities, risks and opportunities identified in the National Policy and how NRW intends to address these (commencing from late 2017 onwards)
The Environment Act aims to build greater resilience into our ecosystems. Biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems provide natural solutions that build resilience, which in turn help society create jobs, support livelihoods and human well-being, adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and contribute to sustainable development.
Part 1 of the Environment Act sets out Wales' approach to planning and managing natural resources at a national and local level with a general purpose linked to statutory 'principles of sustainable management of natural resources' defined within the Act.
Section 6 – Biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems duty
Section 6 under Part 1 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 introduced an enhanced biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems duty (the S6 duty) for public authorities in the exercise of functions in relation to Wales.
The S6 duty requires that public authorities must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity so far as consistent with the proper exercise of their functions and in so doing promote the resilience of ecosystems.
To comply with the S6 duty public authorities should embed the consideration of biodiversity and ecosystems into their early thinking and business planning, including any policies, plans, programmes and projects, as well as their day to day activities.
To comply with the S6 duty, most public authorities must prepare and publish a plan setting out what they propose to do to maintain and enhance biodiversity, and promote resilience.
This plan can and should be an integral part of any planning document as part of the public authority’s business or corporate planning processes. A standalone plan is not necessarily required.
A public authority, in complying with the S6 duty, must have regard to:
The Nature Recovery Action Plan for Wales contains six objectives which should be used to help develop and guide actions to comply with the S6 duty, and further technical guidance will be produced.
A report on what the public authority has done to comply with the duty must be published by the end of 2019 and then every three years after this date.
Complying with the S6 duty will help public bodies subject to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (the WFG Act) to maximise their contributions to the Well-being goals.
The current guidance for the Section 6 duty can be accessed here
Section 7 - Biodiversity lists and duty to take steps to maintain and enhance biodiversity
This section replaces the duty in section 42 of the NERC Act 2006. The Welsh Ministers will publish, review and revise lists of living organisms and types of habitat in Wales, which they consider are of key significance to sustain and improve biodiversity in relation to Wales.
The Welsh Ministers must also take all reasonable steps to maintain and enhance the living organisms and types of habitat included in any list published under this section, and encourage others to take such steps.
Part 1 of the Act, including Sections 6 and 7, came into force on May 21, 2016.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act became law in April 2015 and is concerned with improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.
It will make the public bodies in Wales listed in the Act think more about the long-term, work better with people and communities and each other, look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach.
To help public bodies achieve the same vision, the Act puts in place seven well-being goals. Linked to the goals a set of National Indicators are currently under development to help measure whether we are achieving the goals including the Resilient Wales goal.
'A nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).'
The Well-being of Future Generations Act recognises the importance of nature and its biodiversity The resilient Wales' goal will help with nature recovery objectives in Wales.
The Act establishes a statutory Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to support the public bodies listed in the Act to work towards achieving the well-being goals.
The Act also establishes Public Services Boards (PSBs) for each local authority area in Wales. PSBs are tasked with improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of its area by working to achieve the well-being goals
A list of the living organisms of principal importance for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in relation to Wales.
A list of the habitats of principal importance for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in relation to Wales.