The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill 2023
The Welsh Government has announced the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill 2023 which aims to fulfil their manifesto pledge to introduce a Clean Air Act for Wales.
The Bill intends to:
· Provide a framework for setting national air quality targets.
· Amend existing legislation relation to the national air quality strategy, local air quality management, smoke control, clean air zones, low emission zones and vehicle idling.
· Place a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution.
· Place a duty on Welsh Ministers to publish a national soundscape strategy.
The Bill intends to introduce to a more coherent framework for air quality in Wales, including working towards developing air quality targets, a Clear Air Plan and a National Soundscapes Strategy. Tackling air pollution ‘hotspots’ also feature on the Bill, this focuses on local authorities’ powers as well as on updating rules in relation to Smoke Control Areas (SCAs) and vehicle emissions.
While the Bill will not change the rules on fuel and appliances that can be used in these SCAs, it will change the enforcement regime, a move the Welsh Government hopes will reduce prosecutions as preventative measures become more accessible. Further proposals on Clear Air Zones (also known as Low Emissions Zones) have been controversial in London and may also prove to be in Wales, especially on major trunk roads.
Key Objectives of the Bill
National Air Quality Targets
Welsh Ministers will now have the power to set long-term targets in relation to any matter relating to air quality in Wales - these targets can be met no less than ten years after the date on which the target is initially set. PM2.5, the pollutant most strongly linked to higher rates of mortality, is to be more greatly regulated.
The Bill will also include amendments to existing legislation, including:
· Local Air Quality Management (LAQM). Introduction of requirement to a) ensure local authorities undertake an annual review of air quality and b) ensure Air Quality Action Plans contain projected compliance date that must be agreed with Welsh Ministers.
· Smoke Control Areas (SCAs). Existing criminal offences, which include releasing too much smoke from a chimney, and the burning of unauthorized fuel, are to be made into civil enforcement regimes, matching the law in England and streamlining enforcement.
· Vehicle Emissions. Welsh Government will now have the power to implement charges on trunk roads to address air pollution hotspots. It will also enable them to increase penalties for idling engines, from the current fine of £20.
Promoting awareness of air pollution:
The Bill places a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of the health and environmental impacts of air pollution and ways to reduce or limit air pollution, following the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah in London, for whom air pollution was listed as the cause of death.
National Soundscape Strategy:
Ministers will have to outline their intentions and policies in relation to noise and soundscapes (including the reduction of noise pollution), taking into consideration scientific knowledge. They will also have to review the National Soundscapes Strategy every five years whilst ensuring relevant public/local authorities are taking into account the national strategy.
For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.
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