A number of high-profile organisations including Oxfam, RSPB and WWF have joined forces to call for radical changes to be made to the Welsh Assembly’s Sustainable Development Bill White Paper, the public consultation of which closed last week.

The consortium has voiced concerns that the White Paper proposals fail to live up to the Programme for Government agenda, of which sustainable development is a central pillar. In it, the Welsh Government declared its aim for Wales “to become a ‘one planet nation’, putting sustainable development at the heart of government.”

One bone of contention is the fact that the proposed duty on Government and public bodies only requires ‘consideration’ of sustainable development and only applies to ‘high level’ strategies rather than bread and butter decisions on how Welsh Government and public bodies spend taxpayer’s money.

The consortium fears that without substantial improvement, the Bill will fail to make a real difference to the way Government or the public sector operates, particularly on climate change issues.

Anne Meikle, representing the group of organisations, said that the Bill – if executed properly – had the potential to make a real difference.

“To deliver what is needed to meet the promises of ministers and what is needed for present and future generations, it is clear that we now need strong legislation,” she said.

“Two reports on the Welsh Government’s approach to sustainable development have shown that to date, the existing duty has failed to translate into consistent action on the ground.”

She added: “We want the Government to re-write this Bill so that it actually delivers a sustainable Wales. Unless we see major changes, Wales will fall far short of being a world-leading sustainable nation.”

Maxine Perella

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