Planet Online

Ieuan Churchill scrutinises the Environment (Wales) Bill and asks whether the Welsh Government’s understanding of sustainability can help save the environment, or whether it follows the trend of mutating ‘sustainability’ into a defence of neoliberalism, thereby accelerating ecological crisis. Is there any environmental optimism outside the corridors of the Senedd?

We hope that what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow. Action, more than words, is the hope for our current and future generations. Nikhil Seth, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations 2015.

On 29 April 2015 the Welsh Government’s Well-Being of Future Generations Act came into law. The Act represents an ambitious and internationally unprecedented attempt to place the concept of ‘sustainable development’ at the heart of Welsh society. Plaudits for such efforts have been received from various quarters including the UN. In its advocacy of ‘sustainable development’ for all Welsh public bodies the Welsh Government has chosen to apply a definition that flows straight from the UN’s 1987 Our Common Future report:

...[public bodies] must act in a manner which seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Act’s overarching aims are to be achieved through seven ‘well-being goals’: a prosperous Wales; an ecologically resilient Wales; a healthier Wales; a more equal Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language; a globally responsible Wales. In the period since the Act came into law, the Welsh Government has appointed Sophie Howe as its ‘Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’, and is currently drawing together some of the key enabling Bills that underpin the Act: the Environment Bill and the Planning Bill.

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