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Wales passes world-first sustainable development law

Wales’ new Well-being of Future Generations Bill requires all public bodies to consider sustainable development in every decision they make, from setting budgets to procurement.

Wales’ new Well-being of Future Generations Bill requires all public bodies to consider sustainable development in every decision they make, from setting budgets to procurement.  

The law, the first of its kind across the globe, will ensure that environmental and social welfare is fully taken into account alongside economic criteria in all future actions.

As part of the law, public bodies in Wales will have to abide by the international sustainable development principle: respecting the ‘three pillars’ of sustainability – environment, economy and society – and ensuring that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

‘Game changer’

Carl Sargeant, Welsh Minister for natural resources, called the law “a game changer”.

“We are the first country to introduce legislation of this kind and it is vital we get it right for the good of this and future generations in Wales”, he said.

“In the same year that the United Nations will agree international sustainable development goals, here in Wales we are ahead of the game, continuing the ambition Wales has had to be truly sustainable.” 

Goals

The law aims to achieve a number of ‘well-being goals’, which among others include:

  • Prosperity: achieving an innovative, productive and low carbon society with recognises the limits of the global environment and therefore uses resource efficiency and proportionately;
  • Resilience: maintaining and enhancing a bio-diverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience; and
  • Global responsibility: ensuring that actions taken domestically take into account their contributions globally.

The final goal in particular is being seen as a victory for environment groups, having only been added to the Bill in February.

Among other things, it commits public bodies to take responsibility for the embedded carbon emissions of goods imported from overseas, and to take into account the impact of their emissions on other countries. 

‘Impact on all sectors’

Peter Davies, Future Generations Commissioner, a new role created by the law, said: “This is the most ambitious and far reaching legislation to go through the National Assembly. It is important on national and international platforms, breaking new ground as it embeds sustainability within the public sector which will impact on all sectors within Wales.”