The Welsh Assembly Government has launched a consultation as part of the process of developing a Natural Environment Framework (NEF) which is described as a new approach to environmental protection based on the ecosystem approach.
Living Wales: A New Framework for our Environment, our Countryside and our Seas was initiated by Jane Davidson, the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing, in response to the failure to meet the 2010 Biodiversity targets. Addressing the Wales Biodiversity Partnership at Bangor, North Wales, on September 15, the Minister emphasised ‘the need to put biodiversity at the heart of sustainable development’. The NEF programme has five major work streams focussing on building the evidence base; valuing ecosystems; refreshing regulatory and management approaches; refreshing partnerships; and refreshing institutional arrangements. It is a wide-ranging and ambitious project, designed to address the role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Welsh context.
Its outputs may result in big changes to current legal regimes and the way they are delivered. For example, preliminary work on options for institutional change suggest that Wales would be better served if it had a single statutory environmental body instead of the current three (Environment Agency Wales, Countryside Council for Wales, and Forestry Commission Wales). The consultation is designed to be run electronically. The Consultation Document and a suite of supporting material are all available on the Welsh Assembly Government’s website and there will be an online interactive forum for debate on key issues. The consultation runs until 31 December 2010 and is available athttp://wales.gov.uk/consultations.
The Welsh consultation follows close on the heels of the publication of Defra’s Invitation to Shape the Nature of England, a discussion paper to inform the development of a White Paper on the natural environment by spring 2011. The discussion document is available athttp://ww2.defra.gov.uk/our-responsibilities/nat-environment/ and comments need to be submitted by October 30 2010.