Helping you understand Welsh law

What is devolved?

The National Assembly for Wales has competence to pass laws on a wide range of subjects relating to the environment.

These subjects include:

  • biodiversity and nature conservation
  • environmental protection
  • land improvement (including land drainage and the treatment of contaminated land)
  • protected landscapes (including common land, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty)
  • waste prevention, reduction and management
  • water resources management
  • water supply.

There are certain important limitations on the National Assembly for Wales’s legislative competence in relation to the environment. It does not have competence to create environmental taxes, save to the limited extent permitted by the Wales Act 2014 (which confers power to legislate for a Welsh tax on disposals to landfill). It does not currently have competence in relation to energy-related matters (such as electricity generation, transmission and supply, or coal, oil or gas) (although political agreement has been reached regarding the devolution of certain energy-related powers to Wales), nor does it have competence in relation to product standards. There are also other more specific limitations on the National Assembly’s competence.

The Welsh Ministers have a wide range of functions in relation to these subjects, including functions which allow them to make subordinate legislation. The majority of these functions are conferred directly by primary legislation – by Acts of the UK Parliament, Assembly Acts and Assembly Measures. However, the Welsh Ministers have also been designated under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 to make subordinate legislation to implement various EU obligations relating to the environment.

The Welsh Ministers’ designations under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 include designations that enable them to implement the two key EU environmental assessment frameworks:

  • the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and
  • the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

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