New Wales law leads on sustainable future

New Wales law leads on sustainable future

Prospect and other trade unions will have the opportunity to play a key role in implementing sustainable development policies after the Welsh government passed a ground-breaking piece of legislation.

The national assembly of Wales is the first in the world to have a law referring to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, according to minister Carl Sargeant, who told fellow assembly members that the country was “leading the way” and could make a “global impact”.

The Well-Being and Future Generations Act seeks to strengthen existing governance arrangements with reference to the sustainable development principle – in other words, ensuring the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The act identifies goals for public authorities to improve the long-term well-being of Wales, including prosperity through building a low-carbon economy and resilience via environmental protection and climate change adaptation. Other goals are health, equality, community cohesion and cultural vibrancy.

Role for unions

Consultation with and representation of trade unions is sought in a number of ways. Trade unions will be consulted on the newly established annual Future Generations report, which among other things will set national indicators and milestones, taking account of the UK’s current and predicted impact of climate change.

A Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, who will promote sustainable development and support the relevant public bodies, will also be established. The role will be supported by an advisory board, and at a local level public service boards will be established to ensure well-being goals are met. Both will provide an opportunity for trade union representation.

Prospect workplaces directly affected by the act include National Park Authorities, Natural Resources Wales, National Library of Wales, National Museum of Wales, Wales Audit Office, and the National Assembly of Wales.

Two supporting pieces of legislation have been introduced into the assembly and are expected to be passed into law by 2016.

These are the Environment Bill, which will give Welsh ministers powers to set statutory emission reduction targets and carbon budgeting to support delivery, and the Historic Environment Bill. The latter has been described as another world first and will introduce greater transparency and accountability into decisions taken on the historic environment.

Prospect has produced a briefing on the legislation and responded to the consultation on developing statutory guidance on the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act.