Climate Change Minister Julie James has said new powers to tackle air and noise pollution will lead to a cleaner, healthier and greener Wales.
The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill was introduced to the Senedd on Monday 20 March, giving the Welsh Government greater ability to tackle air and noise pollution.
The new Bill is part of a package of measures to improve the quality of the air environment in Wales.
It will give powers to Welsh Government to introduce new long-term targets for air quality under a national framework taking account of the latest scientific knowledge including the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines
The Bill will help create low emission zones on Welsh Government trunk roads where needed and will give local authorities more power to tackle vehicle idling.
Climate Change Minister Julie James said:
Our Programme for Government sets out a commitment to introduce a Clean Air Bill for Wales and I am delighted we have reached the first stage in our legislative journey which will lead the way to a cleaner, healthier and greener future.
By introducing this Bill, our ambition is to further improve air quality and soundscapes by bringing forward new measures to reduce the impacts of air and noise pollution on human health, biodiversity and the natural environment.
The scale and scope of the Bill reflects our commitment to improving the quality of our air environment at a Wales-wide level, at a local and regional level and throughout society.
The Bill also proposes a progressive obligation on Welsh Ministers to introduce a national soundscapes strategy. Wales will be the first nation in the UK to make this commitment.
This will put onus on Welsh Government to make policies that not only tackle unwanted noise, but also protect sounds that matter to people, like the relaxing calls of birdsong and nature, or the welcoming hum of a vibrant town centre.
The soundscapes strategy is in response to emerging science on the impacts of sounds on our health and well-being, as well as that of animals. If passed, Wales will be the first country in the UK to introduce such plans.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, said:
There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of serious illness and unwanted or harmful noise can not only cause hearing damage but also reduces our quality of life.
Across government we are already taking action to improve the air we breathe and promote healthy soundscapes.
The Bill goes further and aims to make our air cleaner and our sound environments better. This is why I fully endorse the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) Bill for Wales.
Joseph Carter, Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Head of Asthma + Lung UK Cymru, said:
We should be able to walk down the street knowing the air we breathe is safe and healthy. The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, introduced to the Senedd today, is the crucial next step in making this happen.
Air pollution is one of the most pressing public health issues we face, contributing to the deaths of over 2000 people a year in Wales. It affects the most vulnerable in our society who have done the least to cause it, and it is especially damaging to our children’s developing lungs. Furthermore, it is bad for the planet, since some of the air pollutants emitted by our vehicles are causing the climate to warm up.
This clean air legislation is not only a huge win for Welsh lungs but also an important milestone in our journey towards a greener, fairer, and healthier future, where we walk and cycle more and use the car less. We call on all parties to work together to make this Bill as strong as possible.