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A proposed approach to revising the Assembly’s Sustainable Development Scheme

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Carwyn Jones, Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside

I wish to outline to you the approach I intend to take to our legal obligation to consider whether the Sustainable Development Scheme should be revised or remade.

The principles

On 14th September 1999 the Assembly agreed a statement of principles to inform the Assembly's SD obligations and the making of the Scheme.  To paraphrase, these principles were:

  • Openness and use of new technology;
  • Genuine consultation and Assembly Member involvement;
  •  Taking a broad concept of SD;
  • Making SD part of the mainstream of the Assembly's work;
  • Building on the UK strategy;
  • The Assembly giving a lead within Wales;
  •  Working with others and being open to outside input;
  •  Seeing SD as a continuing process;
  •  Delivering the Scheme through a clear action plan, indicators, targets and objectives.  

I believe that these principles are still valid and should form the basis of our approach to reviewing the scheme.

The Effectiveness Report

We have a duty under section 121(7) of the Act to report on the effectiveness of the Scheme after each election.  As part of this, we have conducted a survey of the views of external stakeholders.   This survey covered our approach to strategic policy planning as well as our progress on SD, but it is the latter with which I am concerned today and which is covered in the Report that I have circulated.  I shall provide a Welsh language version as soon as possible.

This, the Davidoff Report, confirms that:

  • we are viewed as having made progress;
  • the emphasis on mainstreaming SD into our work is endorsed;
  • we still have unfinished business on issues such as indicators;
  • the openness to outside input was both appreciated widely and seen as the basis for what we have achieved;
  • there is immense goodwill for the Assembly to build on;
  • having laid the foundations, we are now expected to deliver tangible changes in the way Wales lives and works: a number of priority issues were identified.

This report sets out the challenge the Assembly faces in reviewing the SD Scheme.   We need to build on the work to date in embedding sustainable development in policy but we must also focus on the actions that will deliver the kind of far-reaching change that our legal duty demands.

In addition to the Davidoff report, we have commissioned an independent assessment (from CAG Consultants) of the difference the SD Scheme has made, and of whether we have addressed all the issues we should.  

The two reports will together form the basis of the assessment we are required to publish of the effectiveness of the Scheme so far.

The Scheme Review

Turning to the scheme review, I propose that the programme should run as follows:

  • over the summer staff will prepare consultative material, developed through informal discussions with stakeholders;
  • in September, I will publish the consultation material and the assessment of effectiveness;
  • over a period of at least the following 3 months, I propose to support a series of participative, consultative events, and parallel electronic consultation, to tap the widest range of views from within Wales and beyond;
  • work on SD indicators will form part of this, linking with the work of the existing advisory group on indicators;
  •  material from each event will be posted on the web for discussion;
  • I will publish, in the new year, a final independent synthesis of the views presented; and  
  • I will bring forward a revised scheme and action plan for Assembly approval shortly afterwards.

I hope that this whole process can be completed by Spring 2004. Indeed, if at all possible, I would like to have a new scheme adopted by the Assembly in time for the end of March 2004 when Wales will be hosting the international network of regional governments for sustainable development which we co-founded at the Johannesburg summit.

A focus on action

I do not wish to prejudge the outcomes of the participative, consultative processes I have outlined but it is incumbent on us to respond to the messages that stakeholders are already sending us about taking specific action.  I want therefore to focus events and debate in the consultation process on renewing the vision we set out in the original scheme for a sustainable Wales and from that defining the key actions we should include in a revised action plan.  The areas I have in mind in particular for developing fresh action include:

  • exploring the opportunities created by moves towards a low-carbon or hydrogen economy;
  • using the individual strengths and distinctiveness of different parts of Wales to diversify the economy for competitive, social and environmental advantage;  
  • exploring ways of making the planning system more proactive;
  •  using the purchasing power of the Welsh public sector to change markets, transform communities, support creativity and innovation and create jobs; 
  • encouraging the demand for locally-sourced food to support rural regeneration, agriculture, health and communities; 
  •  using the Ecological Footprint as a means of raising public awareness of SD issues;

  • improving ‘green housekeeping’ across the public sector;

  • developing ‘flagship’ physical projects and converting examples of good practice into the norm.

Engaging Members

The scheme is binding on the Assembly as a whole and I want all Members to have an input. I would in particular like to invite Regional Committees to seek evidence as part of the consultation on the Scheme, as was done during the consultation on the original Scheme. Subject Committees may also wish to discuss their priorities for a new Scheme, or have an input into work on particular topics.  I should of course be happy to receive responses to the consultation from individual AMs.  

The UK perspective

Members may know that the UK Strategy for SD is to be reviewed between now and 2005.   The review of our Scheme will assist us in our input to that exercise.