Tag: Environment

Celebrating the Assembly’s Commitment to Sustainability for Earth Hour

‘Make a promise for the planet’ is the theme for this year’s Earth Hour, which will take place on Saturday 24 March between 20:30 and 21:30. The Assembly will be taking part in this year’s Earth Hour by switching off the lights in the Senedd, Ty Hywel and Pierhead buildings. Many of our AMs have also made the pledge to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to support the campaign.

Sustainability is important to us at the Assembly, and we’ve made it our responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment and operate in an environmentally responsible manner in all our activities. Read more about how we’re striving to operate a sustainable Assembly now and in the future.

How we ensure a sustainable Senedd

Heating

Geothermal heating is used to help warm the Senedd.  Water is pumped down 100 meters through 27 bore holes and heated naturally by the earth’s temperature. The water is then pumped back up to help warm the water in our heating system.  This process is supported by a biomass boiler which uses sustainably-sourced timber from around the UK to provide a relatively carbon-neutral fuel source.

During the warmer months the process is reversed. When the water is pumped down the heat is dispersed underground as the earth acts like a heat sink. The cooler water is then pumped back up acting as a coolant for the building.

Rainwater harvesting

The Senedd’s rainwater harvesting system is used in the washrooms and for cleaning the building. This works so well that the building only needs to be supplied with around £40 worth of mains water a month.

Rain water which falls onto the Senedd roof is channelled towards the front of the building, through two pipes and into a tank where it is then filtered through ultra violet (UV) lights. This water is then reused for flushing toilets and washing windows.

You can find more information about our sustainable practices here.

Pledging to reduce plastic use

On 1 October 2011 Wales became the first country in the UK to introduce a requirement to charge on most single-use carrier bags. The reduction in the use of plastics is an important global issue and the Assembly is committed to reducing its use of plastics. We are already making great headway with this, and have already eliminated our use of plastic coffee cups on the Assembly Estate, whilst committing to getting rid of other disposable plastics over the next 6 months wherever possible.

Senedd sustainability takeaways

  • The Senedd was awarded the BREEAM Excellent standard for its environmental credentials at design stage.
  • The Senedd is heated by a combination of ground-source heat pump and sustainably-sourced wood chip, with gas for back-up.
  • The Senedd’s ground-source heat pump includes 27 boreholes drilled 100m into the ground- they allow us to extract some warmth at the end of the summer, and reverse the process to help cool the building in the spring.
  • Rainwater harvesting means the Senedd only needs about £40 worth of mains water to be bought in each month.
  • Operation of the biomass heating system has saved more than 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions being produced since the Senedd was built.
  • The Senedd is naturally-ventilated; the windows open themselves to change the air temperature or provide more oxygen to the rooms.
  • The Senedd’s roof cowl creates a negative air pressure- allowing fresh air to be drawn up through the building- reducing the need for any artificial cooling during warmer months.
  • Replacing a lot of the Senedd’s lights with LEDs in recent years has saved more than 50 tonnes of CO2 being produced.
  • The large amount of glazing and reflective surfaces cuts down on the need for artificial light in the Senedd. Look up when you visit the Neuadd or Oriel areas and you may well see the lights are off during the daytime.
We’ve got rid of disposable coffee cups, and are using renewable energy sources including biomass, a ground-source heat pump, and shortly switching to green tariff electricity.
We are installing electric vehicle charging points this week, and exploring the possibility of an electric pool car.
We have committed to phasing out disposable plastic wherever possible over the next 6 months, and compost all our food waste, including that from events.

Join the conversation this Earth Hour using #EarthHourWales and keep an eye out for the global switch-off at 8.30pm on Saturday 24 March.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the environmental aspects of the Assembly’s work, visit the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee pages or follow the Committee on Twitter @SeneddCCERA.

Environment and Sustainability Committee – work for the Autumn term 2014

Environment and Sustainability Committee – work for the Autumn term 2014

This term the Environment and Sustainability Committee is busy with a number of inquiries and scrutiny work of proposed legislation underway. Here’s a snapshot of its work for this Autumn term.

One of the key tasks faced by Assembly Committees each autumn is scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s draft budget for the financial year beginning the following April. The Committee has held a session with the Minister for Natural Resources and the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food. It will be publishing its view, in the form of a letter to the Finance Committee, on 6 November.

The Committee is currently preparing to report on its inquiry into Recycling in Wales. This inquiry sought to look at current local authority household waste recycling practices and arrangements, including the information available to householders and how recycling rates can be improved. It covered all waste materials, including food and garden waste.

A public consultation was held as part of the Inquiry to gather evidence between 9 May 2014 and 10 June 2014 and a fantastic response was received from people all ages and areas in Wales. Thank you to all who completed questionnaires and online surveys, shared pictures of recycling in your area, tweeted views on recycling in Wales or responded in a number of other ways. Your input and contribution to the Committee’s work is so important.

To keep an eye on the latest developments for this inquiry please take a look at the Inquiry into Recycling Storify. The Committee is hoping to publish its report on this inquiry before Christmas.

You can also view the YouTube playlist for the Inquiry here.

This term, the Committee faces a heavy load of legislation, with two Bills to consider – the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill and the Planning (Wales) Bill.

The Committee is nearing the end of the first stage of its scrutiny of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is s to put sustainable development at the heart of government and public bodies, with the aim of ensuring that current needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations .

It sets 6 national goals to improve the well-being  of people in Wales  of by tackling generational challenges such as climate change,  poverty, and health inequalities.

The Committee has completed gathering evidence on this Bill, having heard from a range of stakeholders and the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM. The Committee is currently in the process of drafting  the  report on its  Stage 1 consideration of  the Bill. , Updates will be available on the Committee’s web page.

Read more about the Future Generations (Wales) Bill

Recently the Committee began its consideration of general principles (also known as Scrutiny Stage 1) of the Planning (Wales) Bill. This Government Bill was introduced by the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM, following work by the Welsh Government into how planning processes can be improved in Wales.

Consideration of the Bill is now underway by the Committee to assess if it should become law, and to ensure that it reaches the highest standards if it does. A consultation on this Bill opened on 10 October and interested people and organisations will need to submit their responses by 7 November.

Please note that this Bill does not deal with any individual planning cases or approaches to any one type of planning, but with the processes involved.

Following this consultation the Committee will invite individuals and organisations to give evidence during meetings of the Environment and Sustainability Committee before compiling a report and making any recommendations it may wish to make in order to improve the Bill.

If you’d like to share your views on the processes by which planning decisions are made, and how you think this could be improved, please respond to this consultation by Friday 7 November 2014: public consultation on the Planning (Wales) Bill.

More information on the Planning (Wales) Bill

Most of the Committee’s time is dedicated to its scrutiny of the two Bills mentioned above, but it is fitting in some inquiry work too, when time allows. The Committee is holding a number of short inquires and one-off sessions. They are:

  • A short inquiry into the European Commission proposals for organic farming;
  • A round table discussion of animal welfare issue;
  • Continuing its inquiry into Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency; and
  • A presentation on the lessons for Wales from the German Energiewende.

The organic farming inquiry is examining the potential impacts new proposals by the European Commission on organic products could have for Wales.

Read more about the inquiry into organic production and labelling of organic products

The session on animal welfare will cover issues such as control of dogs legislation, non-stun slaughter of animals; animals in circuses and the regulation of animal sanctuaries.

Continuing with the inquiry it began last summer, the Committee is hearing from energy companies in relation to Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency.

The Committee is also taking a presentation on the potential lessons for Wales from the German experience of developing community energy.

If you’d like to book a seat to view any Committee meeting, contact the Booking Team on 0845 010 5500 / 01492 523 200 or assembly.bookings@wales.gov.uk . You can also view the Committee through the Assembly’s broadcasting channel Senedd.tv.

If you’d like to keep up to date with this Committee’s work, why not follow its progress on its Twitter feed? Follow @SeneddEnv for all the latest information.

Making the planning system fit for the 21st Century?

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The National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee is asking for the views of the public on the Planning (Wales) Bill.

Alun Ffred Jones AM, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, explains:

Planning really is one of those issues that touch every aspect of our life, from things as close to home as house prices and the length of our daily commute to national issues such tackling climate change.

It’s easy to see why the issues that the planning process deals with are often hotly debated. Just think about the debates we’ve had about the location of wind farms or new housing developments. Of course, when we start to talk about the technical process of planning, and a law on planning, some people start to lose interest. However, getting this right is really important as it is these processes (and the laws that establish them) that provide us with the tools to democratically balance the competing demands that are being placed on our communities, towns, cities and countryside.

The Welsh Government has been working on how it believes these processes can be improved in Wales, and it has presented the changes it would like to make in a proposed draft law – the Planning (Wales) Bill.
As a National Assembly, we must now look at this Bill to see if it should become law, and to make sure that if it is to become law it is made to the highest standards.

For the full explanation of our work on this Bill, you’ll need to take a look at the Assembly’s website, but to summarise; this Bill proposes changes to the law in order to:

  • move some of the bigger planning decisions (such as larger scale energy projects) away from your county councillors; to be considered instead by Welsh Ministers in Cardiff.
  • allow councils to work together to tackle larger, cross boundary issues (such as economic development along the A55 Corridor or housing supply in the Cardiff commuter) by producing Strategic Development Plans;
  • improve the efficiency of the planning system including the appeal process;
  • make it easier for citizens to influence the future of their communities, through the introduction of statutory pre-application consultation for significant planning applications; and
  • make changes in relation to applications to register town and village greens.

How do we go about considering this Bill?

We will do this by asking experts and interested people and organisations to send us their views on the Bill. We will then call some of these people and organisations in to give evidence to the Committee I Chair, the Environment and Sustainability Committee. We’ll weigh-up this evidence and report to the Assembly as a whole on whether or not we think this proposed law is worth making and we’ll also make some recommendations on areas of the Bill that need to be improved. This stage of our work will begin in October2014 and will end in early February 2015.

Assuming this Bill continues on its journey, we now turn our attention to the fine detail of the Bill. Both the Committee and then the Assembly as a whole will look at every line of the Bill and, where an Assembly Member thinks the Bill needs to be improved, they can propose changes. These proposed changes are called amendments. Amendments are discussed and then voted on. If they are supported, then the Bill will be updated to reflect these changes. These stages of our consideration will begin in February 2015 and run to early May 2015.

Finally, the Bill with any changes that have been made to it by our consideration is voted on. If the Assembly agrees that it should be made into a law – known as an Act – it is sent to Her Majesty the Queen for her approval. Once Her Majesty approves the Bill it becomes an Act – a law – and the changes it has sought to make will be made. This will happen during the summer of 2015.

If you’d like more information on the process, please go to our webpages which explains it in more detail.

How you can get involved

If you’re interested in following the Bill’s progress through the Assembly…

…you’ll find the Bill and all of its supporting documents are available on our website. You can also find links to all the meetings at which the Bill is considered.
We will be providing regular updates through Twitter. Follow @SeneddEnv for the latest news.

If you want to get more involved…

…you can respond to the Committee’s consultation that will be running from 10 October to 7 November 2014. Details of the consultation will be available from our consultations webpage from 10 October.
Alternatively, get in touch with one, or more, of your local Assembly Members to discuss the Bill and any changes you might want see. Do this at an early stage. For this Bill, I’d recommend speaking to them before Christmas. The amending stages I mentioned above begin in the New Year and will run until early May.

A note on the information we’re looking for

Remember that this is a Bill about the processes by which planning decisions will be made, so we are looking for views on the proposed changes to the process – not the issues they are designed to tackle e.g. we’d like to know what you think about decisions being taken by Welsh Ministers instead of Councillors in certain circumstances, rather than individual planning cases or your views on Welsh Government policies e.g. on the location of wind farms.